Under Virginia and federal laws, all firearms rights are lost when someone is convicted of any felony and certain juvenile cases are decided by a judge.
Also under federal law, those convicted of state domestic violence offenses (including misdemeanors) are forever barred from possessing a firearm. So if you have been convicted of domestic assault & battery, you may never again legally possess a firearm even if that right is restored under Virginia law.
For Virginia felony convictions, firearms rights may be restored by either a court order or pardon. Pardons are very rare and are discussed further below.
How to petition your local Virginia court
The more common method of restoration is by petition in your local circuit court (or for non-Virginia residents, the circuit court in the jurisdiction of conviction). Those who live in Virginia but have out-of-state convictions must also pursue this judicial route to relief in order to hunt in Virginia.
The process in Virginia is:
1. Civil rights must first be restored by the governor
2. A petition for a permit to: possess or carry a firearm, ammunition for a firearm, or a stun weapon.
3. The court may grant the petition “in its discretion and for good cause shown.”
4. Virginia can object to the petition and both sides may present evidence at a hearing.
5. Those with the best chance of success to regain firearms rights will have no additional criminal convictions and no history of violence or substance abuse.
6. A successful petition is typically supported with character letters and other evidence of productive citizenship.
What if you have a federal felony conviction?
If you were convicted of a felony under federal law, firearms restoration is obtained by presidential pardon only. It is extremely difficult to get a presidential pardon.
What about domestic violence offenders?
For those with state domestic violence convictions, firearms restoration is even more difficult. Section 925 of title 18 of the U.S. Code provides the mechanism by which people with such convictions may seek restoration. However, Congress has not funded this program since 1990. Therefore, applications under Section 925 go unanswered and there is no change in sight. Until Congress changes its position, firearms rights restoration for domestic violence offenders is not worth exploring.
Concealed carry permit restrictions
Even those whose conviction does not prohibit firearms possession may be restricted or barred from getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon under Virginia law. Included are those convicted of:
• two or more misdemeanors (5 year restriction),
• marijuana possession, DWI, and public intoxication (3 year restriction),
• stalking (permanent restriction with no future restoration), and
• juvenile offenses that would be a felony (16 year restriction)
Pardons and clemency
The Governor of Virginia has the power to grant pardons. A pardon may be full or partial, absolute or conditional.
- Conditional pardon: does not become effective until the person satisfies a prerequisite or that will be revoked upon the occurrence of some specified act.
- Partial pardon: exonerates the offender from some, but not all, of the punishment or legal consequences of a crime.
You may request a simple pardon which is a statement of official forgiveness. While it does not remove a conviction from the official record, it can help especially with employment.
You may not apply until you have been free of all conditions (for example, prison time, or probation) for five years. From 2008-2013 governors in Virginia granted 149 simple pardons.
An “absolute pardon” is extremely rare because it eliminates all aspects of a conviction.
From 2008-2013 governors in Virginia granted just 4 absolute pardons.
There is no appeal from the denial of a petition for a pardon
Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney experienced in Firearms Restoration and Concealed Weapons law. Call Nichols Zauzig experienced criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation at 703-492-4200 or email us today.