In addition, you would face the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record that could limit your ability to obtain a job, professional license, and more. That is why it is crucial that you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to mount a strong defense for you that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
What Is a Firearm in Virginia?
A firearm is defined as a weapon designed, made, and intended to expel a projectile through an explosion—even if it is not operative. It would be considered a deadly weapon if it is likely to produce great bodily harm or death. There are many weapons that are considered firearms in Virginia, such as:
- Assault firearm
- Sawed-off rifle or shotgun
- Plastic firearm
- Machine gun
- Spring Gun
Types of Firearm Possession Offenses in Virginia
There are many crimes involving the use of guns, such as theft of a firearm, brandishing a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, and assault with a firearm. Possession charges fall into four general categories.
Possession of a Gun in a Prohibited Place
It is illegal to possess a gun in certain places in our commonwealth. Common offenses include:
- Place of worship. It is a Class 4 misdemeanor under Virginia Code §18.2-283 to carry a gun or other dangerous weapon into a place of worship. The punishment would be a fine of up to $250.
- Courthouse. Under Virginia Code §18.2-283.1, it is a crime to possess or transport a firearm into a courthouse. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, a person could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, fined up to $2,500, and forced to forfeit the gun.
- Airport. It is also a Class 1 misdemeanor to carry or possess a firearm in an airport terminal under Virginia Code §18.2-287.01. The punishment would be the same as for carrying a gun into a courthouse.
- School property. Possessing a firearm on elementary, middle school, or high school property or on a school bus would be a Class 6 felony under Virginia Code §18.2-308.1. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500. The punishment would include a mandatory five-year prison sentence if the gun was used, there was an attempt to use it, or it was brandished in a threatening fashion.
Possession of a Prohibited Firearm
Individuals are not allowed to possess certain dangerous firearms in Virginia. Crimes associated with possession of a prohibited gun include:
- Machine gun. Under Virginia Code §18.2-290, it is a Class 4 felony to possess or use a machine gun for aggressive purposes. This crime carries a prison sentence of two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Sawed-off shotgun or rifle. Possession of a sawed-off shotgun or rifle when not used while committing a crime is a Class 4 felony pursuant to Virginia Code §18.2-300 and carries the same punishment as possession of a machine gun. If it was possessed during the commission of a criminal offense, it would be charged as a Class 2 felony and would be punished by a prison sentence of 20 years to life and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Plastic firearm. Virginia Code §18.2-308.5 makes it a crime to manufacture, import, sell, transfer, or possess a plastic firearm. This is a Class 5 felony, and the punishment can include up to 10 years in prison, fine of up to $2,500, and forfeiture of the gun.
Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person
Some individuals are not allowed to possess a gun in Virginia. Here are common offenses they could be charged with:
- Minors. Minors are not allowed to possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm in Virginia under Virginia Code §18.2-308.7. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, fine of up to $2,500, and forfeiture of the weapon.
- Non-citizen. It is a Class 6 felony under Virginia Code §18.2-308.2:01 for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen to possess or carry a concealed firearm or to possess or conceal an assault firearm. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, and loss of the weapon.
- Felon. An individual convicted of a felony is prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm or concealed firearm pursuant to Virginia Code §18.2-308.2. This is a Class 6 felony with the same punishment as a non-citizen illegally possessing a gun. However, a defendant could face a mandatory minimum prison sentence depending on their criminal history.
Possession of a Firearm When Possessing Drugs
It is unlawful to possess a firearm when in possession of certain controlled substances. This is a Class 6 felony under Virginia Code §18.2-308. If convicted, the penalty may include a mandatory two or five-year prison sentence, depending on the classification of the drugs in the individual’s possession and how the weapon was being used.
Contact Our Office If You Were Charged With a Gun Offense
Were you charged with one of these or another weapon offense in Virginia? Start a live chat or contact our Manassas office to learn how our skilled criminal defense lawyers will aggressively defend you against the charges you face.