When Can a Convicted Felon Own a Gun?

Under federal law, anyone convicted of a felony or domestic violence-related misdemeanor is barred from owning a firearm. But what about Colorado? How does the federal law compare to Colorado law, and do people convicted of a felony in Colorado have any additional rights to own or possess firearms in the state?

The criminal defense attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law stay abreast of the latest changes in the law regarding gun ownership and can advise accused and convicted felons of their rights. If you’re not sure about your gun ownership rights or if you’re facing a charge for illegal possession of a firearm, our experienced attorneys can help you understand the law and fight for your rights.

Contact Patterson Weaver Law today to talk with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys about when a convicted felon can own a gun.

Can a Convicted Felon Own a Gun in Colorado?

Short answer: it depends. For many years, anyone convicted of a federal or state felony or a misdemeanor for domestic violence was barred from owning a gun. Colorado laws concerning gun ownership by convicted felons have changed significantly in the last few years. In 2021, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB21-271, a sweeping bill that changed which felons were barred from possessing firearms.

When SB21-271 passed in 2021, it narrowed the list of felons barred from gun ownership to those convicted of felonies covered under the Victims’ Rights Act, which includes:

  • Acts of homicide – Murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide
  • Sex crimes – Sexual assault, incest, aggravated incest, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, indecent exposure, Invasion of privacy for sexual gratification, and crimes involving child prostitution
  • Crimes against at-risk adults and at-risk juveniles – Child abuse and sex crimes related to minors
  • Robbery and burglary – Aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery of a controlled substance, and first-degree burglary
  • Domestic violence crimes – Domestic violence, violation of a criminal protection order issued against a person charged with sexual assault, stalking
  • Driving offenses – Careless driving that results in death and failure to stop at the scene of an accident that results in the death of another person
  • Judicial intimidation crimes – Tampering with a witness or victim, retaliation against a victim or witness, intimidation and aggravated intimidation of a victim or witness, and retaliation against a judge, prosecutor, or juror
  • Other crimes – Assault, menacing, kidnapping, bias-motivated crimes, and any criminal attempt, conspiracy, criminal solicitation, or accessory involving any crimes otherwise named in the Victims’ Rights Act

In 2022, the Colorado General Assembly passed HB22-1257, which again amended the categories of felons who are barred from firearms possession. HB22-1257 expanded this list to include approximately 110 other felonies, including arson, aggravated cruelty to animals, treason, insurrection, engaging or inciting a riot, false imprisonment, internet sexual exploitation of a child, and more. It can be difficult to determine which offenses fall within these categories without the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

What Are the Consequences of a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in Colorado?

SB21-271 and HB22-1257 also stiffened the penalties for convicted felons who unlawfully own or possess a firearm in Colorado to Class 5 felony, which carries a potential penalty of up to three years in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both. Furthermore, if convicted felon brandishes or uses a gun in the commission of a crime, they face jail time without the option of probation.

It is important to note that while Colorado law changed, the federal law barring all convicted felons from owning firearms has not. Even if Colorado law enforcement would not prosecute a state crime, a federal prosecutor could. Under federal law, the penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm is up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

When Can a Convicted Felon Own a Gun?

Since the passage of SB21-271, some convicted felons have been permitted to own firearms in Colorado. Under HB22-1257, convicted felons who are still barred from owning firearms can petition the court for an order determining that the law does not apply to them if they can demonstrate that there is “good cause for the person to possess, use, or carry a firearm.” A criminal defense attorney can help you petition the court for good cause to own a firearm.

Can a Convicted Felon Get Gun Rights Restored?

There are limited opportunities for a convicted felon to have their gun rights restored in Colorado. One way is to petition the court to have these rights restored for a “good cause.” Another is to obtain a Governor’s pardon. A pardon is an official forgiveness of a past crime after conviction. To apply for a pardon, you must submit an executive clemency application to the Executive Clemency Advisory Board. A criminal defense attorney can help you craft a persuasive argument for your pardon.

Some Common Defenses to Felony Firearm Possession Charges

If you are facing a felony charge for firearm possession, a criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and freedoms.

There are a number of defenses your attorney can present, such as:

  • You did not knowingly have possession of the firearm
  • The firearm was found through an illegal search and seizure
  • You had a justifiable reason for possessing the firearm, such as to dispose of it or prevent a crime from being committed

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

The many changes to Colorado law concerning firearm possession make it confusing to know whether you can legally own a gun as a convicted felon. At Patterson Weaver Law, our knowledgeable attorneys have studied the subject extensively. We can advise you on your rights and fight for your freedom. If you are facing a charge for possession of a weapon by a previous offender, do not delay. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Patterson Weave Law for a confidential consultation.