There are many different ways people ask the question, but what they really want to know is “will this criminal conviction prohibit me from possessing firearms?”
The Second Amendment guarantees that “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In Maine in particular, owning a gun is a right of passage passed down from generation to generation. However, there are many criminal convictions that can result in a ban on your right to possess firearms.
Federal law prohibits a person convicted of a felony level offense, or of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” from possessing a firearm for the rest of their life. A misdemeanor crime of domestic violence has a specific definition under federal law, and it differs from Maine’s definition, which is more broad. When determining if the offense triggers a federal firearm ban, the federal definition of “domestic” controls.
Under federal law, if a person is convicted of a crime of violence, and has the requisite “domestic” relationship to the victim, it does not matter that the charging instrument did not actually say “Domestic Violence.” For example, a person convicted in Maine of misdemeanor Assault against their father is prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
In addition to the federal prohibition, Maine law goes above and beyond and has additional convictions which will result in a 5-year state ban. Domestic Violence (“DV”) Assault, DV Criminal Threatening, DV Terrorizing, DV Stalking, and DV Reckless Conduct all trigger a 5-year Maine state law ban on the right to possess firearms. This applies regardless of whether or not the person gets banned federally.
Under Maine law, a person who enters into a Deferred Disposition for a Domestic Violence offense is considered “convicted” even if the charge will ultimately get dismissed at the end. Federal law defers to state law to determine if a person is convicted.
The 5-year firearm ban under Maine law begins: (1) when the person is finally discharged from the sentence imposed for the conviction; or (2) at the start of the Deferred Disposition.
If, however, at the end of the Deferred Disposition, the State “dismisses the pending charging instrument with prejudice” the 5-year period terminates. If the person is convicted of any new criminal conduct during the 5-year period, it restarts.
Needless to say, resolving a criminal case in a way that protects the client from losing their right to possess firearms in not always easy. Many criminal offenses carry collateral consequences that are not always explained to people before they plead guilty. Do not risk losing your right to own firearms. Contact Attorney Eric S. Thistle at the law offices of Irwin & Morris.
Attorney Thistle can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (207) 274-3811.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.