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Will I Have to Surrender My Firearms in a Domestic Violence Case?

In Wisconsin, you could be charged with a domestic violence offense if you cause or threaten to cause physical harm to a household or family member. Such an accusation can have numerous consequences. The alleged victim could petition to have an injunction or restraining order issued in your name. Additionally, you could be convicted of the offense and subjected to jail time and/or fines. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be restricted from owning or possessing a firearm. In this blog, we'll discuss the situations that could result in the loss of this right.

Domestic Violence Injunction

One type of action an alleged domestic violence victim might take is seeking an injunction. Also called a restraining order, this court-issued order can place various restrictions on your life. Under Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4m), if a judge grant's the victim/petitioner's request, you would receive written notice to surrender any guns that you own or possess. This means you must report and give to the sheriff's department any firearm that you have under your control – whether it's yours or not. Therefore, if you're holding a gun for a friend, you must surrender that to the police. The person who owns the weapon would have to petition to get it back.

Domestic Violence Conviction

Under federal law, certain people are prohibited from owning, possessing, or transporting firearms. This restriction applies to anybody who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense. What's interesting about this law is that domestic violence is the only misdemeanor crime that can trigger the loss of gun rights.

Others banned under federal law include:

  • Those convicted of any felony crime,
  • Fugitives from justice,
  • Individuals addicted to controlled substances
  • People judged to be mentally defective
  • Those who have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
  • Individuals subject to restraining orders for certain offenses
  • U.S. citizens who have renounced their citizenship

Why is a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction included on the federal firearms ban list? The rationale behind this is because these types of crimes are considered to put others, especially spouses and children, at risk of substantial harm. Many incidents of domestic violence continue to escalate. Lawmakers believed that it was important to get guns out of the hands of people who have engaged in conduct that endangered the lives and safety of others.

The federal firearm restriction has been questioned for its constitutionality, as the Second Amendment affords citizens the right to bear arms. However, courts have upheld the ban.

Not all domestic violence convictions will result in the loss of firearm rights. According to federal law, a domestic violence offense is one that includes the use or attempted or threatened use of physical force against a spouse, parent, guardian, or someone who shares a child with the alleged offender. Certain crimes defined by Wisconsin law do not meet this definition. For instance, the use of physical force is not an element of criminal damage to property. Also, only in certain circumstances does disorderly conduct meet the federal definition of domestic violence, which means the gun ban would apply in some situations and not in others.

If you are convicted of a qualifying domestic violence offense, and you are ordered to surrender your firearms, you must do so.

If you violate the federal law, you could be:

  • Convicted of a felony
  • Imprisoned for up to 10 years
  • Fined

If you were charged with a domestic violence crime in Milwaukee, call the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella at (414) 882-8382 or contact us online immediately. We will work hard to fight your charges and protect your rights.