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Can I purchase or own a handgun after a criminal conviction?

| Oct 16, 2020 | gun crimes

Yes, but it takes time and effort to get Maryland gun rights restored.

In Maryland, you need a permit to purchase and carry handguns. Maryland’s handgun licensing law was put into place in 2013 in the aftermath of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Most people know that one of the consequences of being convicted of a felony is the loss of the right to own and purchase a gun. In general, gun rights are lost if you are convicted of a crime that shows you are unfit to handle weapons. In many instances, as part of court proceedings, an individual is notified that their crime will disqualify them from possessing a firearm.

Restrictions on Maryland gun ownership are found in both the criminal section and the public safety section of the Maryland’s laws, which means that many Marylanders and out-of-state residents travelling in the state can be convicted of gun possession violations as a public safety code violation. Title 4 of Maryland’s criminal laws regulate weapons crimes. However, Title 5 of the public safety section of the Maryland Code regulates issues related to guns, including licensing, carry permits, sale, purchase, and possession.

Under Maryland law, a person may not be issued a handgun permit if:

  • convicted of a disqualifying crime;
  • convicted of a violation classified as a common law crime and received a term of imprisonment of more than two years;
  • a fugitive from justice;
  • a habitual drunkard;
  • addicted to a controlled dangerous substance or is a habitual user;
  • suffers from a mental disorder and has a history of violent behavior against the person or another;
  • found incompetent to stand trial;
  • found not criminally responsible under Maryland law;
  • having been voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a mental health facility as defined under Maryland law;
  • involuntarily committed to a mental health facility;
  • under the protection of a guardian appointed by a court, except for cases in which the appointment of a guardian is solely a result of a physical disability.

Probation before judgment (PBJ) is not considered a conviction for gun possession purposes unless the PBJ was granted in a second-degree assault charge involving a domestic situation.

Neither a permit nor a background check is required to own rifles and shotguns.

Assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines are banned in Maryland.

Penalties for unlawful gun possession in Maryland

Unlawful possession of a firearm is, in most instances, a misdemeanor. The penalties are:

  • First offense: up to three years of jail time and up to $2500 in fines;
  • Second offense: up to ten years in prison and fines;
  • Third offense: a minimum of three years jail time but no more than ten years of jail time.

Penalty for gun possession in Maryland by a convicted felon

If previously convicted of a crime or violence and found in possession of a regulated firearm, a person is guilty of a felony and upon conviction is subject to jail time of a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years. A person is not eligible for parole during the mandatory minimum sentence.

Restoring gun rights

After an appropriate amount of time has passed, Maryland gun rights can be reinstated.

If you were convicted of a state crime, then you can seek a pardon from the governor or expungement of criminal records. In many instances, a Maryland pardon or expungement can reinstate the right to obtain the   permit necessary to own or purchase a gun.

An expungement seals arrest and conviction records, which basically makes them disappear. Under the Justice Reinvestment Act, there are 100 different misdemeanors that can be expunged if you’ve been crime-free for 10 years. The Justice Reinvestment Act was enacted in May 2016 and authorizes the expungement of police, conviction and other official records for offenses. The list of crimes qualifying for expungement was expanded in 2018 to include some of the felonies involving theft, burglary and drug possession with intent to distribute, although some of those crimes have a 15-year eligibility period.

To be pardoned for a misdemeanor, a person must not commit any crimes for a specified length of time starting from either the sentencing date, release from prison or release from parole, whichever occurred last. To qualify for a pardon for a felony, a person must not commit any crimes for a specified length of time from either the date of sentence, release from prison or release from parole, whichever occurred last.

Federal law should also be consulted as it is possible to have the right to own or purchase a gun under state law but not have the right under federal law. A Maryland gun rights attorney can provide further information.

Maryland’s gun laws are strict and complicated. If you’ve been charged with a gun possession crime in Baltimore or Ocean City, you need a Baltimore/Ocean City Maryland gun crime lawyer. A Baltimore/Ocean City gun possession crime attorney can work on getting the charge dismissed or pled down to something less serious, among other options. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling these cases.

The Law Office of Thomas J. Maronick is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your legal needs in Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Towson, Essex, White Marsh, Ocean City and anywhere else in Maryland. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.

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