Many people convicted of criminal offenses lose their right to own firearms. While all criminal charges are a cause for concern, only convictions for serious crimes will result in the loss of the right to own a weapon, but what constitutes a serious crime is not always clear. Recently, a federal court sitting in Pennsylvania set forth an opinion addressing the issue of whether a misdemeanor DUI crime constitutes a serious crime for purposes of disarmament, ultimately ruling that it does. While the Pennsylvania ruling does not impact people in Illinois, it may illustrate how the law may be interpreted in the state in the future. If you are an Illinois resident currently charged with driving while intoxicated, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable Illinois DUI attorney regarding your case.
The Pennsylvania Case
It is reported that in 2002, the defendant was arrested for suspicion of DUI. A subsequent blood test determined his blood alcohol content (BAC) to be .192% at the time of the offense. He was charged with and convicted of DUI at the highest blood alcohol content, which is a misdemeanor crime. In 2016, the defendant attempted to purchase a firearm, but his efforts were denied due to his prior DUI conviction. The defendant then sued the Attorney General of the United States, arguing that the federal disarmament statute was unconstitutional as applied to him. The trial court found in favor of the Attorney General and the defendant appealed.
The court ultimately ruled that although the underlying crime was labeled a misdemeanor, it constituted a serious offense and the defendant’s loss of gun rights was proper. Specifically, the court explained that any crime that presents a possibility of the risk or danger of harm to oneself or others constitutes a serious offense.
Drunk driving is a potentially deadly, and therefore serious, crime, according to the court. The court clarified that an element of violence was not required for a crime to be considered serious. Thus, it was of no import that the DUI crime did not include the use or threatened use of violence. Based on the foregoing, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Gun Ownership Following DUI Convictions in Illinois
Prior to buying or possessing a firearm, an Illinois resident must obtain a firearm owner’s identification card (FOID card). Under Illinois law, certain criminal convictions may result in the loss of the right to own a firearm, however. Specifically, people convicted of felony crimes are not eligible for an FOID card. While first and second time DUI offenses are generally charged as misdemeanors, in some instances they may be charged as felonies when aggravating factors are present. Additionally, a third or subsequent DUI constitutes a felony crime. Thus, as in Pennsylvania, people in Illinois who are charged with DUI may face the loss of their gun rights if convicted.
Speak with an Experienced DUI attorney
DUI convictions can impair a person’s rights long after a sentence has been served. If you are faced with charges that you committed a DUI crime, it is prudent to speak to an attorney to discuss what steps you may be able to take to protect your interests. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC is an experienced drunk driving defense attorney who can advise you of your options and fight to help you seek the best outcome available under the circumstances. Mr. Harvatin can be contacted at 217.525.0520 or through the form online to schedule a conference.