The United States is one of only three countries in the world that considers gun ownership a constitutional right for its citizens. Gun rights, or the right to bear arms, is something that has become ingrained into American culture. Many citizens take the utmost pride in this fact. Under the U.S. Gun Control Act (GCA), only those 18 years or older are able to purchase and own shotguns, rifles, and ammunition for these guns. Only those who are at least 21 years or older may purchase any other type of gun. However, even if you meet the proper age requirements, there are certain cases that might revoke your right to buy, own, or possess a gun. Arizona gun laws prevent an individual with a felony offense from possessing this right.
Phoenix criminal defense attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra has handled hundreds of felony cases. With years of experience behind her, she knows all the ins and outs of Arizona laws, including gun laws. In this post, Belén Law Firm will go into further detail about Arizona gun laws for felons and how someone might restore their gun rights.
Arizona Gun Laws for Felons
Last year, Arizona ranked number seven for the highest number of registered guns per state. This is significant, especially considering that it is one of 44 states that don’t require citizens to register their firearms. Arizona’s open carry practice laws allow individuals 18 or older to openly carry firearms in most public places. To carry and conceal, you do not need a permit, but you must be at least 21 years of age.
While the state is relatively relaxed when it comes to gun ownership, you should not take Arizona gun laws for felons lightly. If a felon gets caught owning or possessing a firearm without first having their rights legally restored, they will receive a criminal charge. The charge, Misconduct Involving Weapons, is a Class 4 felony offense. It often carries a term of about 2.5 years of imprisonment. In the case that you have had a previous felony conviction, the term will increase to about 4.5 years. (See our blog: Arizona Felony Sentencing Chart.)
How to restore gun rights lost by an Arizona conviction?
The good news is that there are ways to restore your gun rights as a felon in the state of Arizona. For most convictions, the restoration of gun rights occurs two years following the completion of probation or once your prison sentence has ended. For more serious offenses, it will take much longer. Serious offenses require 10 full years to pass following probation or the date you are completely discharged from prison before restoring rights.
Serious offenses include:
- 1st Degree Murder
- 2nd Degree Murder
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Assault
- Crimes Against Children
Once a felon has met the mandatory waiting period, they may file a petition for the restoration of their gun rights. This petition must be in the form of a written request and filed with the Superior Court in the county where the conviction occurred. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean those rights will be automatically restored, though.
There are multiple factors to consider before the court restores your gun rights. Factors taken into account include your criminal history and any history of violence on your record. Your probation or prison performance will also factor in, as well as any attempts to rehabilitate. If your crime resulted in another’s injuries, the court will also consider the severity of those injuries.
There are certain situations in which you won’t be eligible to restore your gun rights at all. If your criminal conviction was that of a dangerous offense, your gun rights will not be up for restoration at any time. A dangerous offense occurs when someone purposely intends to inflict serious physical injury, often involving the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
Domestic Violence and Gun Rights
A charge may also become a serious offense if another person received injuries, like domestic violence, for example. Charges become even more severe if the crime involved the use of a deadly weapon. Someone with a felony domestic violence offense may face serious obstacles in the restoration of their gun rights.
The federal act under 18 U.S. Code § 921 bans an individual convicted of domestic violence from possessing a deadly weapon such as a gun. That is, unless the conviction was set aside, expunged, or had civil rights restored in a state where domestic violence misdemeanors cause a loss of these rights. Arizona is not one of these states. Therefore, the only process available to restore gun rights is to apply for the conviction to be set aside.
Can I restore my firearm rights if I was convicted of a federal crime?
In Arizona, both federal and state felons may face civil disabilities for their conviction. Civil disabilities refer to the revocation of a legal right or privilege that is otherwise guaranteed to U.S. citizens. This stands apart from the sentence or punishment itself. It remains in effect for a certain period of time following the felon’s release from prison or the completion of their probation.
Some of the rights and privileges lost as a result of civil disabilities include the following:
- The right to vote
- Holding public office
- Obtaining certain licenses or jobs
- The right to serve on a jury
- Entering into certain agreements
- Profiting from insurance or pension
The state of Arizona, as well as federal law, prohibits convicted felons from possessing a firearm or even ammunition. Even if the gun is not yours but it’s found in your possession, you could face serious criminal charges.
Fortunately, Arizona allows felony offenders to restore their gun rights for most convictions. But in the case that the individual committed a federal crime, it is much harder to regain those rights. It is unlikely that a person convicted at the federal level will be able to restore their gun rights, though not entirely impossible.
Someone convicted of a felony in the federal court may apply to have their civil rights restored in the county where they reside. Even if the state grants a request to restore gun rights, federal laws may still bar someone from possessing a deadly weapon. The state cannot set aside or pardon a guilty verdict for a federal conviction. However, in some cases, the criminal offender may obtain automatic restoration or court relief under the federal law.
What happens after my gun rights are restored?
If you were only convicted of one felony in the state of Arizona, your rights are automatically restored upon completion of probation or your discharge from prison. You must also have all fines and restitution paid off. If you have two or more felonies, you must apply to have your civil liberties restored after the designated time has passed following probation (two or 10 years).
Upon the restoration of your gun rights, you’ll receive a court order with a notice of your restoration. The court clerk will then send the notice to the state and you will legally be able to own and possess a gun.
Contact Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Belén Today
Belén Olmedo Guerra has expansive knowledge of Arizona gun laws for felons. She knows what it takes to restore your gun rights following a felony conviction. If you have received such a conviction and seek to have your rights restored, contact Belén’s Phoenix office today. Belén Law Firm is open and accepting new clients, with video and phone conferencing available for your health and safety. Call today at 602-715-0908 or fill out our online intake form to schedule your free consultation.