Among the many consequences of a felony conviction in Virginia is the automatic loss of the right to possess a firearm – the Virginia Code makes it a felony for an individual to possess a firearm after a felony conviction. However, the Code also sets forth a process to have your gun rights restored. These are the five steps you can take to make that happen:
STEP 1 – Determine Your Eligibility
Do you have a federal felony conviction or a state felony conviction? If the conviction was federal, you are currently unable to have your firearms rights restored. Although federal law provides an avenue for the relief of firearms disabilities, Congress has not approved the required funding for ATF to process the applications since 1992. However, if your conviction came at the state level, you could be eligible for restoration.
STEP 2 – Have Your Political Rights Restored
Virginia law provides that before you can petition the Circuit Court for restoration of your firearms rights, you must first have your political rights restored. This process is contingent upon the nature of your felony and the year it occurred:
Non-violent felonies after July 15, 2013: political rights are automatically restored upon an individual’s release, and after the completion of certain milestones.
Non-violent felonies before July 15, 2013: individual must submit an application for the restoration of political rights to the Governor’s office and await approval.
Violent/more serious felonies: depending on the particular circumstances and facts, may have to wait up to five (5) years after any sentence served, or completion of supervised probation and parole, before applying for the restoration of political rights.
STEP 3 – Obtain a Certified Copy of the Order of Felony Conviction
Once your political rights are restored – you will receive a packet from the Governor’s office documenting such – contact the circuit court clerk in the city or county where you were convicted and obtain a certified copy of your Order of Conviction. This will be included as part of your petition to have your firearm rights restored. This is a step you can have your attorney complete, but if you’ve already obtained it, it helps expedite the filing of your petition.
STEP 4 – Compile a History of Employment, Civic Activities, and Past Military Service
Essentially, you are putting together a resume inclusive of each area of your life. You want to highlight a steady job history, leadership positions, involvement in community activities like churches, charities, coaching youth sports teams, etc., and any past military service. The judge and the Commonwealth’s Attorney will evaluate all of these when considering your petition to have your firearm rights restored.
STEP 5 – Contact an Attorney
Sit down with an attorney that has experience with firearm rights restoration proceedings. An attorney will prepare your petition, advise you on the laws governing the process, compile all of the necessary documentation for your petition, submit the petition to the proper circuit court, set a hearing date, and open a dialogue with the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Once the hearing date arrives, your attorney will argue the merits of your petition for restoration of firearm rights.