The District of Columbia contains very stringent gun laws. Carrying or possessing a firearm without registering the firearm or without being licensed to carry the firearm can carry significant penalties. Before you seek to take possession of any gun, it is important to first know what D.C. laws require because having a license to carry a firearm in another state may not be sufficient to carry the same firearm within the District of Columbia.
Unlawful Possession of Firearm
In Washington, D.C., there are certain individuals prohibited from possessing a firearm. The D.C. Code states that no person shall own or keep a firearm, or have a firearm in his or her possession in the District, if the person:
- Has been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year imprisonment;
- Is not licensed to sell weapons, and the person has been convicted of a weapons offense;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is addicted to any controlled substance;
- Is subject to certain court orders (For example: a court order restraining the person from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening another person; or a court order requiring the person to relinquish possession of any firearms); or
- Has been convicted within the past 5 years of a misdemeanor intrafamily offense, i.e., an offense with an intimate partner, or with family violence
Penalty for Unlawful Possession of Firearm
At the lowest level, a conviction for unlawful possession of firearm carries a 1 year mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration and maximum of 10 years imprisonment. The mandatory minimum sentence however, can jump to 2 or 3 years, and the maximum sentence can also increase up to 15 years depending on the type of offense that prohibited the individual from possessing a firearm, and/or certain convictions such as crimes of violence on the individual’s record.
Carrying a Pistol Without a License
In the District of Columbia it is illegal for anyone to carry a pistol openly, or concealed on his or her person unless the individual has a license to do so. A pistol is any firearm originally designed to be fired by use of a single hand or with a barrel less than 12 inches in length.
According to D.C. Code section 22-4504.01 however, if a person holds a valid registration for a firearm, he or she may carry the firearm within the home, their business, for lawful recreational purposes, or while the gun is being transported for a lawful purpose.
Penalty: Carrying a firearm in a location other than the person’s home, place of business, or other land possessed by the individual, can carry up to 5 years incarceration, a fine of $12,500, or both. If the person has a prior felony, the individual could face up to 10 years incarceration, a $25,000 fine, or both.
Additional Penalty for Committing a Crime of Violence While Armed
In Washington, D.C., if an individual is armed while committing a crime of violence or a dangerous crime, there is a mandatory minimum of 5 years imprisonment with a potential maximum sentence of 30 years incarceration. If the individual has a conviction for a prior crime of violence or dangerous crime, the mandatory minimum is also 5 years incarceration. If the individual has a conviction for a prior crime of violence while armed, the mandatory minimum incarceration becomes 10 years.
Possession of Unregistered Firearm
Under section 7-2502.01 of the D.C. Code, it is unlawful to possess or control any firearm, unless the individual holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm. A violation of this provision carries up to 1 year in jail, a fine, or both.
Possession of Unregistered Ammunition
In the District of Columbia, no one is permitted to possess ammunition for a firearm unless one of the following apply:
- The individual is a licensed dealer;
- The individual is an officer, agent, or employee of the District of Columbia or the United States of America, on duty and acting within the scope of his or her duties;
- The individual holds a valid registration certificate for a firearm;
- The individual holds an ammunition collector's certificate; or
- The individual temporarily possesses ammunition while participating in a firearms training and safety class conducted by a firearms instructor.
Penalty: Possessing unregistered ammunition carries up to 1 year incarceration, a $2,500 fine, or both.
If you are facing a gun charge in Washington, D.C., contact us or call (202) 403-2292 to speak with a qualified lawyer to handle your case.