Under California’s stringent firearms laws, you can lose your rights to own a gun if you are convicted of a felony or specific misdemeanors. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney may help you get your gun rights restored if your conviction was not for a felony involving a weapon or a domestic violence charge. Here’s what you need to know about getting your Second Amendment rights back after committing a crime.
Who Cannot Own a Gun in California?
California law forbids people with the following qualities from owning or possessing a gun.
- Under age 18
- Meet the criteria for a mental illness or substance abuse disorder
- Federal law prohibits them from having a gun
- A court order or probationary condition precludes them from gun ownership
In California, a felony conviction leads to a lifetime ban on possession of a firearm, while several misdemeanors result in 10-year weapons bans, including assault and battery, brandishing a weapon and making criminal threats.
Can Reducing a Felony to a Misdemeanor Restore Your Gun Rights?
One way to get your gun rights reinstated is petitioning the court to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 17(b). However, while having a court reduce your offense to a misdemeanor may provide some relief under California state law, federal law does not recognize post-conviction reductions of the level of offense or expungements following Penal Code Section 1203.4.
Nearly all legal gun purchases take place through federally licensed firearms dealers. Therefore, a federal ban on gun ownership will still prevent you from possessing a gun, even if you have your gun rights restored under California state law.
Obtaining a California Governor’s Pardon
The second, more practical, way to reestablish your gun rights is receiving a pardon from California’s governor, who has full discretion to approve or deny pardon requests. Only a pardon from the governor of California can successfully restore your gun rights under federal law, as a governor’s pardon legally nullifies the conviction.
If you are a current California resident, obtaining a pardon is a two-step process:
- Petition the superior court for a California Certificate of Rehabilitation.
- If the court grants your petition, it automatically becomes a petition for a pardon from the California governor.
Generally, applicants for a gubernatorial pardon must have lived in California for a minimum of seven years, having maintained an exemplary, crime-free lifestyle for at least 10 years.
Are You Eligible for a Gubernatorial Pardon?
Defendants who have been convicted of a California felony that is ineligible for reduction to a misdemeanor may meet the criteria to receive a gubernatorial pardon to restore their gun rights.
Governor’s pardons can be challenging to obtain, but an official state government pardon can restore your gun rights in California, in addition to other benefits like expanded employment opportunities and the ability to serve on a jury. If you or a family member needs help regaining your right to own a firearm, you’ll want to retain a knowledgeable attorney to represent you in court. At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, our team has successfully defended many complex, high-profile legal cases. Contact us today to learn how we can put our skills to use for you.