Guns are a hot topic in Virginia and around the country. While some people are reckless with firearms or use them to intentionally commit crimes, at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we also know that law-abiding gun owners can find themselves in the crosshairs of Roanoke gun charges too. So if you or a loved one are charged with a firearm-related offense, we highly recommend talking with an attorney. An honest mistake could lead to you or a relative facing serious charges.
Here are some of the most common gun charges in the Roanoke area, but by working with our defense attorneys, you have the best chance of having the charges dropped, proving your innocence, or minimizing the consequences. You can reach us at (540) 343-9349 or online. We’re available 24/7 and offer free initial consultations.
Illegal Concealed Carry
Open carry is legal in Virginia, as long as you are over 18, can legally own a firearm, and you don’t take it onto properties where guns are prohibited. However, you can’t wear a gun under your jacket or tuck it into the back of your waistband unless you have a concealed carry permit. Unfortunately, this is something a lot of gun owners don’t think about.
You can get in trouble if you go about your day wearing a gun without a permit. Without a permit, you can be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor if you conceal a firearm on your person or try to camouflage it when it’s visible. A second violation of the concealed carry law is a Class 6 felony.
If you have a permit, but you forget to carry it with you, then you face a small civil fine.
Brandishing a Weapon
Even if you’re legally carrying a firearm, you can’t point it at someone or brandish it in a way that reasonably causes fear. What does ‘brandish’ mean? – You can’t wave or exhibit the firearm in a way that demonstrates anger or a threat.
The difference could be whether the weapon was pointed at the ground or toward a person or crowd. The difference could be as simple as whether or not your finger was on the trigger, or you were saying something threatening while holding the gun.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor if you brandish your gun in public and reasonably cause fear. If convicted, you face up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Firearms and Domestic Violence
Women are more likely to be killed by intimate partners, and over half of these murders are committed with a firearm. In Virginia, between 2004 and 2013, 37% of women who were murdered were killed by an intimate partner, and 60% of those murders were with a firearm. The rate of murders of women by intimate partners using guns is 21% higher than the national average.
As a result of this trend, using a firearm during a domestic assault results in a longer prison sentence. Displaying or using any firearm while committing a violent felony results in an additional 3-year prison sentence. For a second offense, you face an additional 5 years in prison.
To be clear, this is a separate felony charge from the underlying violent felony, which could include attempted rape, murder, robbery, burglary, carjacking, and malicious wounding. This means you can be convicted of both, and sentenced to prison for both.
Possessing a Firearm After a Felony
If you were convicted of a felony in the past, whether in Virginia or another state, then it’s illegal for you to own or possess a firearm under state and federal law. You can be charged and convicted of a Class 6 felony for illegal possession of a weapon.
If you’ve previously been convicted of a violent felony, you face a minimum of 5 years in prison. For other felony convictions, you face a minimum of 2 years in prison. You also can be fined up to $2,500.
Firing a Gun from a Car or in a Building
Virginia has a law that specifically targets drive-by shootings. It’s illegal to intentionally fire a weapon from a motor vehicle in a way that puts other people at risk or creates a fear of serious injury or death. Firing a gun from a car is a Class 5 felony, penalized by up to 10 years in prison.
It’s also illegal to fire a gun in an occupied building. You can be charged with a Class 4 felony if you maliciously fire a gun in a building that’s occupied by at least one other person in a way that puts their lives at risk. A Class 4 felony is punishable by between 2 and 10 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
Have You Been Charged with a Roanoke Gun Crime?
Gun offenses are very serious in Virginia. One of the first steps we’ll take as your attorney is to review whether what happened was an honest mistake or accident. If you did not intentionally commit an offense, we might work with the prosecutor to have them drop the charges. Or we might file a motion to dismiss and ask the judge to end the case.
We’ll also consider whether you’ve been charged with a more serious offense than necessary. If a prosecutor isn’t open to dropping the charges, they might be open to reducing the charge to a lower offense. This can be particularly helpful if we can get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor.
When you work with an attorney, you can be confident we’ll build you a strong defense. If your case goes to trial, we’ll present the facts in the best possible light to the judge or jury. We’ll pursue a non-guilty verdict while also preparing to ask for the minimum sentence if you’re convicted.
Facing gun charges can be scary, but you don’t have to go through this process alone. Let our Roanoke firearms attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico help. Call us at (540) 343-9349 to set up a free a confidential consultation.