Possession Of Weapons Charges And The Right To Bear Arms

Thousands of Colorado residents value their Second Amendment right to bear arms.  Thousands more have been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony. When those two statistics overlap, it can create new problems for servicemembers, veterans, and other residents charged with possession of weapons by previous offenders.

Colorado Residents Value Their Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms

In 2017, Colorado residents bought a total of 360,468 guns. That is 131 percent more than ten years earlier. Since 2001, Coloradans have collected more than 4 million firearms. That’s enough for every adult in the state.

Firearm purchases spiked during the Obama Administration, when gun owners worried the government would interfere with their Second Amendment rights. While the Trump administration has reduced the fear of gun control, more recently, gun owners have been stocking up in the interest of self-defense. That may explain why 58% of gun purchases are handguns (rather than rifles), and over 375,000 residents have filed concealed carry permits in the past 10 years.

Former Felons Face Possession of Weapons Charges

What many residents don’t realize is that their Second Amendment rights have limits. One of those limits involve former felons. Under Colorado law, if you have been convicted of, or have pled guilty or “no contest” to felony charges, you lose your right to carry a firearm or other weapon. That’s not just during your probation or parole. It continues long after your sentence is complete. It even applies if you were convicted as a juvenile or entered a diversionary program.

If you have a felony criminal record and are found possessing a gun, you may be charged with Possession of a Weapon by a Previous Offender (POWPO), sometimes called “felon with a firearm”. This law makes it illegal for a person to knowingly possess, use, or carry a weapon if he or she has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to:

  • A felony
  • An attempted felony
  • Conspiracy to commit a felony
  • A juvenile act that would have been a felony for an adult.

The concept of “possession” is broad enough to include direct physical control of the weapon, and indirect ownership with the ability and intent to control its use. You can also be charged if you shared possession with your spouse, roommate, relative, or any other person.

What Counts as a Felony for “Felon with a Firearm” Charges?

It isn’t always easy to know whether your prior conviction counts as a felony. Generally speaking a felony is any crime with a maximum possible penalty of more than 1 year in prison. However, this is based on the statute, not the sentence you actually served. If it was a first offense or there were mitigating circumstances, you could be considered a felon even if you served little or no jail time.

Possible Penalties for POWPO

The penalty for POWPO charges depends on several factors:

  • What crime you were previously convicted of
  • How long it has been since your conviction
  • Whether the weapon involved is a “dangerous weapon” under Colorado law
  • Whether you have previous POWPO convictions

As a first-offense, Possession of Weapons by a Previous Offender is a Class 6 felony with a maximum penalty of 12 – 18 months in prison (with 1 year mandatory parole) and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000. However, depending on the above factors, those charges can increase to a Class 5 felony with penalties of up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. If you have faced POWPO charges before, your punishment can go even higher to a Class 4 felony with penalties of 2-6 years in prison (with 3 years mandatory parole) and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.

Possession of Weapon Charges Create Problems for Servicemembers

Civilian residents in Colorado have their own reasons to own firearms. But for active-duty servicemembers in the United States Armed Forces, carrying weapons is part of the job. Most military assignments require you to be armed, and that can cause problems anytime you are facing civilian felony charges.

Many civilian criminal defense attorneys do not realize the career-ending effects of pleading guilty to a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. They may not be able to properly advise you of what might happen if you are found carrying a firearm in the course of your duties. Because being convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence cuts you off from your Right to Bear Arms, you need to know the long-term consequences before you agree to take a plea deal.

At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorney Ryan Coward is a veteran himself. We know how to address state criminal and court-martial issues for servicemembers facing felony charges or possession of a weapon by a previous offender. We are here to serve you and will see you through the civilian criminal court process and make sure you know what the military consequences are before you decide to take a plea deal. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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