Article 1 of the Louisiana State Constitution provides state residents “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms.” Although the text says that this right “is fundamental and shall not be infringed,” you can lose the right — at least temporarily.
If you receive a felony conviction in Louisiana, you will likely lose the right to carry a firearm of any kind.
Getting caught with a gun after your conviction is a serious offense. The penalties for a felon in possession of a firearm charge in Louisiana are another felony with a minimum sentence.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about interacting with a firearm after a felony conviction in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Who Can and Can’t Possess a Firearm Under Louisiana Law?
Louisiana law bans most felons from owning or possessing a gun. However, it singles out these offenses, in particular:
- Violent crimes (assault, attempted murder, sexual violence, etc.)
- Simple burglary
- Burglary of an inhabited dwelling
- Burglary of a pharmacy
- Unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling
- Felony illegal weapon use
- Manufacturing or possessing a bomb
- Manufacturing or possessing a delayed action incendiary device
- Possessing a firearm while selling a controlled substance
- Any “attempted” charges for the above
- Domestic abuse charges (R.S. 14:95.10)
Though, federal law prevents anyone with a felony from possessing a firearm. Depending on your case, federal law may trump state law.
Do All Firearms Count?
If your previous felony conviction waives your right to possess a gun, then you cannot own any type of gun, including pistols, revolvers, rifles, or shotguns. This naturally applies to machine guns and submachine guns, too.
If it shoots fixed cartridge ammunition or uses an explosive reaction to shot a projectile, then you cannot use it if you have one of the above convictions on your record.
What about other weapons?
The law doesn’t explicitly state that you can’t carry a knife, crossbow, pellet gun, or another legal weapon. You still have a right to defend yourself and your home. However, you must use, carry, and store them according to the law.
If you have a question about a particular weapon, you should contact a criminal defense attorney for legal advice.
Can I Ever Use a Firearm Again?
The ban for the charges listed above isn’t a lifetime ban.
It prevents you from possessing a gun for ten years after completing your sentence. That means it starts after probation.
For example, if you were convicted of possessing a firearm while selling a controlled substance on January 10, 1990, and you were sentenced to 20 years in prison and two years of parole that ends in 2022, then you become eligible to use a firearm in 2032.
Can I Be Around a Firearm?
Yes, you can spend time with people who have firearms. Nothing is stopping you from visiting a friend who keeps a hunting rifle in their home — as long as you don’t use it or borrow it from them.
However, you can’t have a gun in your home. That also includes guns owned by a roommate or another family member. There are severe restrictions on when you are allowed to have a gun in the household.
If you get caught, the state can charge you with “constructive possession,” which occurs when a gun or firearm “is subject to a person’s dominion and control” even if only temporarily and the control is shared. Often, constructive possession occurs when someone convicted of one of the above felonies knows there’s a firearm in the house and had access to the gun.
So, if you live with your parents and they own guns, the guns must be kept in a locked safe that you can’t access. At a minimum, it should include a secure combination lock or lock and key — neither of which you have access to.
You should, however, always try to avoid riding in a vehicle in which there is a gun. This can also land you with a constructive possession charge.
What Are the Penalties for Felons in Possession of a Firearm?
Getting caught with a gun after your felony conviction is a felony in itself. (Felonies in Louisiana are defined by whether they come with hard labor.)
If you get convicted of the offense under Louisiana, you can face:
- Five-year mandatory minimum sentence (up to 20 years)
- $1,000 minimum fine (up to $5,000)
- No probation
- No parole
- No suspended sentences
The total sentencing usually depends on how long you were previously off parole or probation for a past conviction. Your total record (all past felony convictions) will also play a role.
Judges also consider the use of your weapon as part of drug activity as relevant to the sentencing. If the police arrest you with marijuana (or another drug) and a gun, you could face a more severe sentence.
Remember that while Louisiana law allows firearm possession in some cases, you lose your rights under federal law in all cases. If you are charged with a federal offense, it is a Class D felony with up to ten years in prison and $250,000 in fines and ending in three years of supervised release.
What Are the Defenses Available to Felons Caught with a Firearm?
If you get caught with a firearm, then you need to prove that you have your state civil rights restored and can now own a gun. Once you are legally allowed to own a gun (10 years after completing your sentence), then there is no reason to convict you.
In cases where the gun is not yours, you can argue that the weapon is not yours and provide evidence of the gun belonging to another party. You both need to prove that you (the felon) didn’t have access to it.
In cases where you are no longer on parole, you can also argue that the gun is the fruit of the poisoned tree and was the product of an unlawful search and seizure.
If You Are Charged with Felony Possession of a Firearm, You Need a Lawyer
In Louisiana, you lose your right to bear arms if you receive a conviction for a violent felony. The loss isn’t permanent, but you must wait until ten years after you complete your sentence.
For many people, this means treading carefully around gun-owning friends and family. Sometimes simple mistakes can land you in legal jeopardy.
If you get charged with possession of a firearm when you have a felony, you need a strong legal strategy to avoid returning to prison. Contact a criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge today to learn more about defending your case.