Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Conviction Bars You From Owning a Gun (CA Penal Code 273.5 and 243(e)(1))

As of this week, anyone in California who has been convicted of domestic violence charges may be banned for life from having a gun.  Since 1996, a similar ban has been in effect.  However, that ban only covered felony convictions.  In other words, up until now, if you had a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, there were other penalties, but you would only have been permanently barred from owning a weapon such as this if you were convicted on felony charges.  Furthermore, even if the complainant has not been injured physically, the ban still applies.  Many people believe that this decision seems a bit draconian.

California law defines domestic violence in very broad ways.  It is, of course, already illegal to criminally threaten, batter, or assault a stranger.  Yet, if the alleged victim happens to be your domestic partner, cohabitant, fiancé, wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or your child’s parent, then different laws apply  (CA Penal Code 273.5, Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant and CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery; 273(d)).

It used to be the case that a misdemeanor domestic violence charge meant facing up to 3 years of probation, 1 year in county jail, and fines up to $10,000.  Oftentimes, the perpetrator would also be forced to donate up to $5,000 to a women’s shelter or as restitution to their victim, participate in community service, and attend mandatory counseling, in addition to having the charge on your permanent record, making it difficult to pass simple background checks for certain professions.  Now, you will have to deal with the added frustration of a lifetime ban on owning a gun.