Firm Logo


How Long Before a Convicted Felon Can Own a Gun in California?

Restoring Gun Rights for California Felons

Being convicted of a felony in California is one of the quickest ways to lose your gun rights. If you’ve served your time, you might be thinking that it is only a matter of time before you get your Second Amendment rights back. So, how long must you wait before you can own a gun again?

In reality, most people with a felony conviction, whether federal or state, are permanently banned from possessing a firearm. In other words, you will likely not be able to ever own or use a firearm legally again. This is due to the strict state and federal laws concerning felons and firearms.

Nevertheless, you might have a slim chance to get your gun rights restored in California. So keep reading to find out how.

What Does California Law Say About Felons Owning a Firearm?

California Penal Code 29800 PC imposes a lifetime ban on gun ownership or control by convicted felons. It applies to anyone convicted of a felony in any state or country. Any person who owns, buys, receives, or has in their custody or control any firearm would be guilty of a felony.

This lifetime ban extends to narcotics addicts and people convicted of a crime relating to the violent use of a firearm. It also extends to people with outstanding warrants for felony offenses and juveniles convicted of felonies after being tried as adults.

What Does Federal Law Say About Felons Possessing Firearms?

Federal restrictions on felons owning a gun are very similar to California state restrictions. However, they differ in some cases, with federal law being stricter. Some offenses that state law treats as misdemeanor convictions attracting a 10-year gun ownership ban attract lifetime ban under federal law. An example is a conviction for domestic violence.

18 USC 922(g) states that it is illegal for anyone convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than a year to ship or transport, possess, or receive any firearm.

Based on this provision, the federal lifetime ban on felonies applies:

  • No matter the court, you were convicted. That is, even if you were not convicted in a federal court.
  • It also applies to California felons convicted of wobbler crimes.

Since wobbler crimes can be punished as both a misdemeanor and felony, they are generally punishable by a prison term of more than one year. All that is required is for the crime you are convicted of to carry the possibility of imprisonment for more than a year. So even if you are charged with the misdemeanor version of the crime and sentenced for less than a year, this ban could still affect you.

There is an exception for state misdemeanors that are punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less. You should contact a firearms defense attorney if you think you might fall within this exception.

Federal law also provides an exception for convictions that have been expunged. However, this is subject to the jurisdiction in which the expungement happened. If expungement in the jurisdiction does not restore firearms rights, then the exception does not apply. California Penal Code 1203.4 expressly states that the state’s expungement procedure does not renew gun rights.

Restoring Your Gun Rights in California

California’s gun laws, combined with Federal laws, essentially make it next to impossible for people with felony convictions to ever own a gun again. However, there are a few ways around it.

Reducing a “Wobbler” Felony Conviction to a Misdemeanor

Generally, the easiest way to restore your California state gun rights is by reducing your charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. This is allowed with certain “wobbler” offenses, such as battery on a peace officer under California Penal Code 17(b). Exercising this prerogative is at the complete discretion of the court, and not every offense qualifies for this reduction. Offenses that do not qualify include:

  • felonies for which you are sentenced to state or federal correctional facility
  • domestic violence convictions
  • direct felonies
  • drug offenses that qualify you as a “narcotics addict.”

When a felony offense is reduced to a misdemeanor, it is regarded as a misdemeanor for all purposes in the state. This could help recover your gun rights in California. However, your federal gun rights may still be gone, in which case, this reduction will be of little impact. It is essential to consult an attorney to properly guide you if you are looking to have your gun rights restored.

Gubernatorial or Presidential Pardon

A gubernatorial or presidential pardon is practically the only way to truly restore your gun rights, both federal and state. However, for the pardon to do that, it needs to be full and unconditional. If you were convicted under California criminal law, you will require the Governor’s pardon. Whereas if you were convicted under federal law, you would require a presidential pardon.

This is useful for people convicted of “non-wobbler” felonies and certain sexual misdemeanor crimes. However, presidential pardons are very rarely granted. Also, you only become eligible for a governor’s pardon after at least ten years from your parole or the end of your probation. The general requirement is exemplary behavior during a long period of time, so you must have been crime-free during that period.

There are two possible routes to apply for the Governor’s pardon in California.

  • Certificate of Rehabilitation

Obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation is the first step in applying for a Governor’s pardon for people who were convicted of a California crime and who live in California. It is a court order stating that the holder has been rehabilitated for their crimes. It also serves as an official application for the Governor’s pardon.

For you to be eligible to apply, you must have lived in California for at least five years prior to your application. You must also have been released from jail, parole, prison, or probation for at least seven years before your application. This period is known as the rehabilitation period. It includes your last five years of residence in California and some extra years. The exact number of additional years depends on your conviction. You can consult your attorney for more information on this.

  • Applying for a Direct Pardon

If you do not live in California but were convicted of a California crime, you may apply for a direct pardon from the Governor through the website of the Office of the Governor.

Consult the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney

Our criminal defense law firm may be able to help you in a variety of ways. We may be able to help if you are facing a felony charge, which could potentially take away your gun rights for life. We could also provide legal assistance if you already lost your gun rights and are facing a charge for felony possession of a firearm. Furthermore, if you need legal advice on restoring your firearm rights, we are here for you. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you!

Schedule Your Consultation

Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.