Virginia has strict gun laws with serious criminal penalties. Ignorance of Virginia’s firearm laws is no defense, so if you intend to own guns, you should become familiar with them. Also, if you are ever charged with a crime in relation to possessing or discharging a firearm in VA, it is crucial to work with an experienced Roanoke gun crimes attorney.
A local and dedicated Roanoke defense attorney is your best chance at avoiding a gun conviction, protecting your record, and preserving your ability to own firearms. No matter the gun charge, contact Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico today at (540) 343-9349 to set up free and confidential consultation. They will explain you rights, your options, and how they can help.
When is it Illegal to Carry a Firearm in Virginia?
The law does make some firearm possession illegal. But generally, anyone over 18 can carry a firearm openly in Virginia. However, it’s a Class 1 Misdemeanor (punishable by 1 year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine) for minors to carry firearms, except when:
- On their own property, that of their parents, grandparents, or legal guardians, or on the property of any person with parental permission
- They re going to or from a shooting range while accompanied by an adult
- Lawfully hunting, and the weapons are unloaded while being transported
- Carrying out their duties with the armed forces
Felons in Possession of Firearms
Virginia law prohibits convicted felons from knowingly and intentionally carrying a firearm. Being a felon in possession of a firearm is a Class 6 Felony, punished by up to 5 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
In addition, if the felony you were previously convicted of was violent, you’ll face a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. For felonies committed in the past 10 years, the judge must impose a 2-year minimum.
Virginia Concealed Carry Laws
Open carry is different than concealed carry. Specifically, concealed carry is when the firearm is hidden within a person’s clothing or bag. Under Virginia law, a weapon is still considered concealed even when it is visible but has been camouflaged to not look like a weapon.
It’s a Class 1 Misdemeanor to carry a firearm—or any other dangerous weapon—that is concealed, except when:
- Carrying the concealed weapon at his or her place of business or in or near his or her house
- The concealed weapon belongs to a law enforcement officer or retired state police officer
- In transit from a legal gun store, shooting range, or weapons exhibition while unloaded and secured
- Legally hunting and protecting the weapon from bad weather
- The individual carrying is a state attorney
- Secured in a container or compartment of a private motor vehicle or boat
- The individual is a carrier of the US Mail or a corrections officer exercising his or her official duties
For a first offense, violating the concealed carry laws may result in up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $2,500. A second violation is a Class 6 Felony (up to 5 years in prison and $2,500 fine). A third or subsequent offense is a Class 5 Felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
VA Concealed Carry Permits
To carry a concealed handgun legally in Virginia, you must obtain a concealed carry permit. To get your concealed carry permit, you must be over 21 and present the permit to law enforcement on request. There’s a $25 civil fine for people who refuse or are unable to show their concealed carry permit.
Places Where Carrying a Firearm is Illegal
Virginia law prohibits carrying weapons—whether open or concealed in:
- A Place of Worship – Taking a firearm, knife, or another weapon to a place of worship is a Class 4 Misdemeanor.
- A Courthouse – Carrying a weapon or firearm (or its components) into a courthouse is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
- Schools – Carrying a firearm at an elementary, middle, or high school, on a school bus, or at a place where school-sponsored activities take place is a Class 6 Felony.
If someone displays the firearm in a threatening manner or intends to use it at a school, he or she faces a mandatory 5-year prison sentence in addition to any other penalty.
Illegal Discharge & Use of Firearms
Virginia law doesn’t just restrict who can own firearms and when or where they can be carried. Using and firing weapons is also illegal under certain circumstances:
- It’s a Class 5 Felony to intentionally fire a weapon from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a risk to others or puts others in fear or serious injury or death. The maximum sentence for this offense is 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
- It’s a Class 1 Misdemeanor for a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon to do so while in a public place and under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. A conviction may result in up to 1 year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
- It’s a Class 1 Misdemeanor to carry a concealed weapon into a restaurant or bar and to drink alcohol. If convicted, you may face up to 1 year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
- It’s a Class 3 Misdemeanor to fail to report a machine gun to the State Police within 24 hours of its acquisition or conversion from a semi-automatic. The maximum fine for this offense is $500.
- It’s a Class 6 Felony to import, sell, own, or transfer the Striker 12, or any other semi-automatic folding stock shotgun with a drum magazine holding 12 or more shells. This offense involves up to 5 years in prison and a possible $2,500 fine.
- It’s a Class 2 Felony to have or use a sawed-off rifle or shotgun in the course of attempting or carrying out a violent crime. The penalty for this offense is a prison sentence of 20 years to life and a possible fine of up to $100,000.
- Displaying or using any other firearm in the course of committing a violent felony will result in a 3-year prison sentence for the first offense, and a 5-year sentence for the second offense—in addition to the sentence for the underlying felony.
- It’s Class 4 Felony to possess or use a sawed-off rifle or shotgun for any purpose. A conviction may result in a prison sentence between 2 and 10 years and a fine of up to $100,000.
What If I’m Charged With a Gun Crime?
The consequences of breaking Virginia’s gun laws are harsh, and it is easy for law-abiding citizens to make a mistake. For example, people may find themselves charged with falsifying a gun application for simply making an error on a form or misinterpreting a question on their background check.
But in addition to the fines, court costs, attorney fees, and possible jail time, you also have to deal with having the offense on your criminal record. That’s why it is crucial to work with a lawyer anytime you are charged with a gun offense.
How a Virginia Gun Crimes Attorney Can Help You
An attorney can explain the process, what you can expect, and guide you towards a favorable outcome, like having the matter dismissed or reduced.
Remember, you have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police, and you should exercise this right. It helps you avoid making things worse and it maximizes your chances of avoiding a conviction.
If you need a Roanoke firearm attorney, call Copenhaver, Ellett and Derrico today at (540) 343-9349 for a free and confidential consultation.
Although the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, section 13 of the Virginia Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, the Virginia legislature can limit gun ownership to the extent necessary to protect the health and safety of the state’s citizens. Thus, Virginia has extensive legislation that defines the limits of legal gun ownership and use.
Contact Copenhaver, Ellet and Derrico
If you’ve been charged with a weapons crime, the experienced Roanoke attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico evaluate your case and explain your options. From there, they will fight to secure the best possible result. For an appointment, call us at (540) 343-9349.