If you are facing assault charges in Colorado due to a domestic violence incident, you need to know that your right to bear arms may be on the line. Before you agree to a plea agreement or consider a diversion program you need to know what that might mean for your rights, and your firearms.
Colorado Requires Some Defendants to Surrender Firearms at Sentencing
Since 2013, Colorado has had a law designed to keep people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes from owning or possessing guns. The Colorado law incorporates a similar federal law, but it goes further, by applying the law to people facing restraining orders as well as criminal sentencing. Since Colorado law also requires a protective order to be issued in every domestic violence criminal case, that means that even being charged with a domestic violence crime can affect your right to possess firearms.
As of June 2021, enforcement of that law has gotten tighter. Under HB21-1255, anyone who falls under the Colorado domestic violence firearms prohibition is required to file an affidavit with the court within 7 days of the charges or restraining order being filed. This affidavit must describe:
- How many firearms the person owns
- The make and model of each weapon
- Whether each gun is in the person’s immediate possession
- The reason the person still possesses the firearms
- The location of each firearm
Colorado courts must schedule a compliance hearing 8 to 12 days after the orders go into effect to make certain the person has complied with the law. (This may happen at the same time as a regularly scheduled criminal hearing.) Making matters more challenging, all firearms must be transferred in accordance with Colorado’s strict laws governing the transfer and sale of firearms, which often require the transfer or sale to be processed through a federally licensed firearms dealer.
When Do You Have to Relinquish Your Firearms After a Protection Order?
The law generally requires a defendant charged with assault crimes of domestic violence or facing a civil restraining order to surrender their firearms and ammunition within 24 hours of being charged, or being released from police custody or jail. However, the Court can grant a defendant an additional 24 hours to relinquish a firearm if they are unable to comply with the initial timeline.
Where Should Defendants Take Their Guns to Surrender Them?
It is up to you how you choose to comply with the domestic violence related firearm restrictions. You can sell or transfer your guns and ammunition to:
- a federally licensed gun dealer
- law enforcement
- a contracted agency for storage
- a private who does not live with the defendant
If you choose to sell your firearm, the gun dealer, private party, or agency accepting the transfer must give you a receipt. This is important, especially if you are selling your weapons to a family member or friend. You will need those receipts to confirm that the firearms are no longer under your immediate control in compliance with the law, and you will need to show proof that the transfer complied with Colorado’s strict statutes governing the transfer and sale of firearms. If you choose to give your firearms to the local police, the law enforcement agency cannot examine or test those weapons or use them in a criminal investigation without first obtaining a search warrant based on probable cause to believe the gun or ammo is connected to a crime.
Federal Law Bars Possession of a Firearm After Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Conviction
In addition to having to surrender any weapons you do have, if you are convicted (not just charged) with a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” federal law will prevent you from obtaining any new firearms for life. The federal law applies to a misdemeanor conviction that involves the use of physical force or a deadly weapon against an intimate partner. In Colorado, this often applies with misdemeanor charges related to Assault, Harassment and Menacing against an intimate partner.
Of note, Colorado’s domestic violence law is broader than the federal statute’s definition of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” That means some people with domestic violence convictions may still be permitted to possess firearms under the federal law, but that this is very technical and something that should be discussed with a lawyer. Remember that Colorado does not have a single crime of domestic violence. Instead, the domestic violence label can be applied to any criminal act “used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.”
What if Your Domestic Violence Charges are Dismissed?
If your criminal case is dismissed, or your criminal defense attorney helps you negotiate a plea agreement without the domestic violence label, your right to possess firearms should be restored. The law against possessing firearms may be one compelling reason for you to work with a criminal defense attorney to fight Colorado domestic violence charges. However, even if the charges are dismissed, you can’t immediately buy your weapons back from your cousin or neighbor. Instead, the law requires a private party to receive a background check conducted by the Colorado bureau of investigation, authorizing the return of your firearms before they turn over the weapons.
Even a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for assault can change your life forever. If your livelihood, your service in this nation’s military, or your hobbies, depend on your right to bear arms, then you must take any domestic violence charge seriously. At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys understand how federal and Colorado laws work together to force criminal defendants to relinquish their firearms and we know what it takes to get them back. Our lawyers are here to serve you from the initial arrest, through dismissal or sentencing. We will help you identify your defenses, and your options so you can protect your right to bear arms. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.