How Gun Rights and Domestic Violence Intersect in Rhode Island

How the Rhode Island Firearms Act Impacts Those Convicted of Domestic Violence

A domestic violence charge can wreak havoc on your life, from potentially impacting your employment to damaging relationships with your loved ones. In the state of Rhode Island, a domestic violence charge can also jeopardize your right to own firearms. This is the work of the Rhode Island Firearms Act, a longstanding set of laws that includes provisions barring an individual convicted of a felony or other crime from owning a gun or other firearms.

The Rhode Island Firearms Act was expanded in 2017 to include additional scenarios where an individual loses their right to bear arms. This includes making a “no contest” plea or being convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, dramatically lowering the threshold on what can get your gun rights revoked.

At the Law Office of Steven J. Hart, I have helped numerous clients protect and preserve their gun rights in the state of Rhode Island despite circumstances that might see them removed. Below, I will cover some of the basics in firearm law, how it relates to domestic violence and what steps you should consider taking if your gun rights are threatened by legal charges.

Firearm Basics

In the state of Rhode Island, a “firearm” is defined as an item that fits one of the following categories:

  • Pistols
  • Air pistols
  • Rifles
  • Air rifles
  • Machine guns
  • BB guns
  • Blank guns
  • Frames or receivers of weapons

The definition also includes any instrument in which metal or steel projectiles are expelled, or any such device that could be easily modified to expel such projectiles. If your criminal case falls under the terms set in the Rhode Island Firearms Act, you will no longer be able to own any instrument meeting any of the above categories.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charges

Per the aforementioned 2017 updates to the Rhode Island Firearms Act, convictions or pleading no contest in a misdemeanor domestic violence case will likely cause you to lose your right to own firearms. To be even more specific, you will not be allowed to purchase, own, carry, transport, or have any firearm in your possession.

This rule applies to the following types of misdemeanor offenses:

  • Domestic simple assault – defined as displaying the intent to harm someone, this can include relatively minor acts like pushing, shoving, scratching, or pulling hair
  • Cyberstalking and cyberharassment – these charges involve stalking or harassment that takes place primarily over the internet; it is often paired with additional crimes, like libel, slander, defamation, or identity theft
  • Violation of a protective order – the unintentional or intentional violation of a court-mandated restraining or protective order
  • Domestic disorderly conduct – typically used when family arguments spin out of control; the Rhode Island Firearms Act only applies here when force or the threat of a dangerous weapon are involved

Once you have entered a plea of “no contest” or are convicted of a misdemeanor offense in any of the above categories, you will have 24 hours to surrender any firearms in your possession. This surrender must be made to the Rhode Island state police, a local police division, or a licensed gun dealer; in all cases, the surrender should be documented.

To complete the surrendering process, the affected individual must then do the following:

  • Provide documented proof of the physical surrender of firearms
  • Attest that all firearms in their possession at the time of the conviction or plea of no contest have been surrendered

If the individual did not own any firearms at the time of the conviction or plea of no contest, they must instead provide an attestation saying so. It is critical that you follow these steps and actually surrender your firearms, even if you plan on attempting to restore your gun rights.

Consequences for failing to surrender or otherwise violating the Rhode Island Firearms Act after a domestic violence conviction or plea of no contest are severe. If you are caught with a firearm in your possession, or if you attempt to purchase, own, carry, or transport a firearm, you will receive a mandatory jail sentence for a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 10 years.

Restoring Gun Rights After a Misdemeanor Conviction or Plea of No Contest

You may not have to be permanently stripped of your gun rights in certain scenarios. Some individuals who lost gun rights as a result of a misdemeanor domestic violence case can petition the District Court to reinstate those rights, so long as they meet certain criteria

To successfully motion to restore your gun rights, your case must reflect one of the following scenarios:

  • If your sentence was a 1-year filing, that filing must be complete
  • If your sentence was a 1-year probation, that probation must be complete
  • If your charge has been expunged from your record
  • If your sentence did not involve filing or probation (including serving jailtime or suspended sentence), 5 years must have passed since the date of sentence completion

Note that in cases involving the 5-year wait time, you must not plea no contest to, or be convicted of, a new misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Doing so requires you to wait an additional 6 years to file a restoration motion.

If you meet one of the above categories and successfully file your motion, you will appear at a hearing where a court considers whether to restore your gun rights. This hearing does not “put you on trial” or attempt to make any moral determination on whether you deserve your rights. It is instead more of a procedural formality, one in which the judge will confirm you meet one of the aforementioned categories and that no other legal prohibition should prevent your gun rights from being restored.

Should the court rule in your favor, you will be granted a written notice validating that your gun rights have been restored. You will once again be permitted to possess, own, purchase, carry, and transport firearms. You can retrieve your surrendered firearms by presenting the court notice.

I Can Help You Restore Your Gun Rights

If you have been convicted of or pled no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, you are likely frustrated your constitutional right to firearms has been stripped from you. Fortunately, as I have outlined above, this loss of rights does not have to be permanent.

As part of my practice at the Law Office of Steven J. Hart, I have helped numerous clients navigate domestic violence and other family law problems. My goal is to help you get what you are entitled to under the law. I can help make sure you remain compliant with all surrendering regulations and ensure you will be able to file for restoration as soon as you are legally able. I can assist in the preparation of your motion filing documents and represent you at your hearing. If you choose to retain my services, I pledge to give your case the compassionate, vigorous advocacy it deserves.

Do not wait to get started. Call (888) 701-0919 or contact me online so we can start working on your case together.

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