In Virginia, gun crimes are taken very seriously, and there are many different gun crimes that you may be arrested for violating. Most gun offenses are felonies and come with mandatory minimum sentences. If you are convicted of other crimes as well, the penalties can run consecutively with other sentences. Not only could you face stiff penalties, but a conviction may also have long-term consequences—including a permanent criminal record, limitations on your employment, and loss of professional licenses. However, if you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to build a strong defense against the charges that you face.
What Are Common Gun Crimes in Virginia?
There are over 30 gun-related offenses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is a crime to possess a gun in certain places, to possess a gun if you are a certain prohibited person, to possess certain types of guns, to possess guns while in possession of drugs, and more. Some common gun offenses include:
- Concealed weapon. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-308, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon, such as a pistol, switchblade, brass knuckles, and other specified weapons, without a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor—the most serious class of misdemeanor offenses—and may result in up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
- Brandishing a firearm. Virginia code § 18.2-282 makes it unlawaful to point, hold, or brandish a firearm or any object similar in appearance in such a way as to induce fear in the mind of another. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the violation occurs on the property of any public, private, or religious school, it is a Class 6 felony.
- Possession of firearm after felony conviction. Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2 makes it a Class 6 felony for a person convicted of committing a felony to possess a firearm. You may be convicted of this offense if you have a gun at your home or in your car as long as the gun was in your possession and under your control. Having the gun in your control is broadly interpreted, making it more likely that you may be arrested for this offense if it is in proximity to you and you exercise control or dominion over it. A Class 6 felony is punishable by one to five years in prison.
- Possession of firearm on school property. It is illegal under Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1 to possess a stun weapon, knife (except for a pocket knife with a folding blade of less than three inches), stun gun, or other weapons other than a firearm on the property—including school buses and at certain extracurricular activities—of any school, including public, private, and religious schools. A violation of this statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This statute also makes it a Class 6 felony to possess any firearm on such property.
- Possession of firearm with possession of drugs. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-308.4, it is illegal to possess a gun while in possession of illegal controlled substances classified as Schedule I or II drugs. This is also a Class 6 felony. If the individual is charged with having such a firearm "on or about his person" while in possession of the drugs, the statute applies a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment of two years.
- Displaying a firearm while committing a felony. Virginia Code § 18.2-53.1 makes it unlawful to use, attempt to use, or display a rifle, pistol, shotgun, or other firearm in the commission of certain serious felonies, such as rape, forcible sodomy, murder, robbery, carjacking, burglary, or malicious wounding. This is a separate and distinct crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison for a first offense and five years for a second or subsequent offense. The sentences also run consecutively with the penalty for the primary felony.
- Discharging a gun in a building. It is a Class 4 felony under Virginia Code § 18.2-279 to maliciously discharge or fire a firearm in a building that is occupied by one or more individuals in a manner that endangers their lives, or to maliciously throw a missile at a house or other occupied building a manner that places a person's life in peril. If a person dies as a result of the firearm discharge, the offense is murder in the first or second degree, depending on whether the discharge was willful, intentional, and premeditated. If there was no malice in the discharge and there was no fatality, a person may be charged with a Class 6 felony. However, if a fatality results from such a firearm discharge, which was done unlawfully but not maliciously, the person may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. These charges are extremely serious because first-degree murder may result in a sentence of life in prison. The penalties for a Class 4 felony are 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Are you facing gun charges? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to explain what may happen in your criminal case and how we can help you to build a strong defense. To learn more, call our office to schedule a free consultation.