Reviewing Gun Crimes in Virginia

Police lights by nightVirginia is commonly known as a firearm friendly state, but there are still many laws that govern possession and use of a firearm arm.  Most of the laws proscribe who can and cannot possess a firearm and where firearms can be possessed.  Virginia is an “open carry” state, which means that any person, except felons or certain other person, can possess a firearm that is carried openly, that is a firearm that can be seen by the public.  A firearm that is not carried openly is a concealed weapon, and a permit is required to possess a concealed weapon.

Possession Crimes

The most common crime committed dealing with the possession of a firearm is carrying a concealed weapon.  A firearm is considered concealed if it is hidden from common observation and readily accessible to the person.  Va. Code § 18.2-308.   A gun that is hidden underneath clothing, in a purse or other bag, or hidden under or between seats in a vehicle is considered concealed.  A gun that is in a secured container is exempt from the concealed weapon law.  A secured container can include an unlocked glove compartment.  Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

It is also illegal for some people to possess a firearm at all.  Those who have been convicted of felonies, adjudicated delinquent as juveniles of some felonies, have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or are subject to a protective order are forbidden from possessing firearms.  Va. Code § 18.2-308.1-308.8.  Possession of a firearm as a felon usually carries a two or five year mandatory sentence, dependent on the underlying felony conviction.

Use Crimes

Just because you are allowed to have a gun, does not mean there are rules that govern when and where a person can display or use a firearm.  The most common of those crimes are brandishing a firearm (§18.2-282) or reckless handling of a firearm (§18.2-56.1).  Both of these crimes are class 1 misdemeanors.  Brandishing a firearm is the unjustified display of a firearm that places another person in fear for their safety.  Justification is the threat of serious physical harm from the other party.  Reckless handling of a firearm is the unsafe use or firing of a firearm.  The use must be in such a manner that shows a willful and wanton disregard for human life.

If you have been charged with a crime that involves a firearm, or have questions about your rights to possess a firearm, please call the criminal lawyers at Winslow & McCurry at 804-423-1382.