We frequently get questions about the scope and application of the Lautenberg Amendment. In an attempt to help clarify how the law applies to you, we are releasing a series of articles to explore some of the common questions relating to domestic violence charges and gun ownership. The Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 established a comprehensive regulatory scheme designed to prevent the use of firearms in domestic violence offenses. It is often referred to as the domestic violence offender gun ban, which is a pretty straightforward description of its intent and effect. However, it is not as simple as the shorthand would suggest, and there are many instances in which an individual is in violation of the Lautenberg Amendment without realizing it, such as when a person’s criminal record does not actually include the words “domestic violence.”
Do You Have to be Charged with Domestic Violence to be in Violation of Lautenberg?
While felons have had firearms restrictions for decades, the Lautenberg Amendment extended the definition of a prohibited person to include people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges. The intent was to prevent the use of firearms in domestic violence offenses, and because of that intent the law is written in a way such that you do not actually have to be convicted of domestic violence to be in violation of the amendment. In fact, many different charges can be considered to meet the threshold for domestic violence with respect to meeting the tenets of Lautenberg. The facts and circumstances of the case determine if it is a Lautenberg offense rather than the name of the criminal charge. For example, an individual could be charged with disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace and still be prohibited from owning a firearm if the details of the charge met a basic description of domestic violence. It is important to understand that Lautenberg may have an impact on your ability to own a firearm, even if you were not directly convicted of domestic violence, or if you used a plea deal to reduce a charge from domestic violence to a lesser charge.
What Causes a Crime to be Considered Domestic Violence in Lautenberg?
Given that a crime does not have to be called domestic violence to trigger the prohibition against possessing a firearm, it is important to know what the actual details are. If your case involves a spouse, former spouse, a significant other, a former significant other, a child, or another person with which you have a familiar relationship with that you assaulted or attempted to assault, it can be considered a form of domestic violence. In short, the crime must:
- Involve violence, threats of violence, or the attempted use of violence; and
- Be targeted toward somebody you have a domestic relationship with.
If these two standards are met, you may be prohibited from owning a firearm for the rest of your life.
The Effect of Domestic Violence Plea Bargains
As previously mentioned, a domestic violence conviction does not have to occur to violate Lautenberg. Even if you were initially charged with domestic violence and plead down to a lower crime, you may still be restricted from owning a firearm. If you plead down to a lower crime and the facts and circumstances of the charge that you plead to still involve the use of violence or the attempted use of violence upon somebody with which you have a domestic relationship, you could meet the standards to be subject to the Lautenberg Amendment. You would then be subject to the penalties of a Lautenberg Amendment violation for possession of a firearm.
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What is the Penalty for a Lautenberg Violation?
Since the Lautenberg Amendment is part of federal law, any charge for violation of the amendment will be a federal offense. Typically, the punishment for federal offenses are more sever than those at the state level. Lautenberg is no different. A violation of the amendment is a felony under federal law, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine per offense. You are also at risk of prosecution and punishment under State law if such a law exists in the state.
Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban in Nebraska
In Nebraska, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence within the past seven years. If caught in possession of a deadly weapon in Nebraska within 7 years of a domestic violence conviction, you will be facing a Class ID felony if the weapon is a firearm and a Class III felony if the weapon is not a firearm. A Class ID felony in Nebraska is punishable by up to fifty years in prison, and a Class III felony is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban Lawyers
A violation of the Lautenberg Amendment will likely lead to severe punishments at the Federal level and may even lead to a criminal charge at the State level, depending on the State in which you reside. Although the amendment was created to prevent the use of firearms in domestic violence offenses, individuals do not actually have to be convicted of domestic violence to face these charges. If you have been charged for violating the Lautenberg Amendment, it is important that you speak to an attorney immediately to understand your rights. Our team of dedicated Lautenberg Amendment attorneys can help you set up a strong defense for your charges. Contact Berry Law today at 402-260-5767 to schedule a confidential consultation.
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