What are the potential penalties for possessing a weapon on school property?

Gun Sitting on Top of School SuppliesIt is a crime to have a weapon on school property in Virginia. Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1 defines the crime and the potential penalties that you may face.

For purposes of this law, school property is defined as public, private, and religious:

  • Daycare centers
  • Preschools
  • Elementary schools
  • Middle schools
  • High schools
  • Property being used exclusively for a school-sponsored function or extracurricular activity
  • School buses

The specific penalty you may face for having a weapon on school property depends on the type of weapon involved in the alleged crime.

Weapons Other Than Firearms

It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly possess a stun weapon, knife (other than certain pocket knives), or another dangerous weapon (other than a firearm) on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term.

Firearms

It is a Class 6 felony to knowingly possess a firearm or gun on school property, in school buildings, on property used by the school for a function or activity, or on a school bus.

The penalty for a Class 6 felony includes a prison term of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both a fine and jail term. However, if you are convicted of intending to use, threatening to use, or attempting to use the firearm within a school building, then you face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Exceptions to the Weapons on School Property Law

Virginia Code § 18.2-308.1(E) provides specific exceptions to the law described above. If one of the following is true, then you should not be convicted of having a weapon on school property:

  • You have the weapon as part of the school’s curriculum or activities.
     
  • You have a knife customarily used for food preparation or service.
     
  • You have a weapon as part of any program sponsored or facilitated by the school or an organization authorized by the school to conduct a program on or off school grounds.
     
  • You are a law-enforcement officer qualified to carry a handgun.
     
  • You have a knife or blade that you customarily use in your line of work.
     
  • You have an unloaded firearm or stun weapon in a closed container, a knife in a motor vehicle, or unloaded shotgun or rifle in a firearms rack in a motor vehicle.
     
  • You have a valid concealed handgun permit and you have a concealed handgun or stun weapon in a motor vehicle.
     
  • You are a school security officer who is authorized to carry a firearm.
     
  • You are an armed and licensed security officer hired by a daycare or private or religious school to protect students and employees.

Other defenses may also apply in your case.

To learn how best to protect your rights and avoid potential penalties after an arrest for having a weapon on school property in Virginia, please contact our experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.