Criminal Defense – Domestic Violence Convictions and Gun Rights

A spat between spouses, an argument between boyfriend and girlfriend, or even a squabble between roommates can sometimes escalate to the point where police are involved. Police involvement in such a dispute, can lead to the arrest of the person whom the police reasonably believe to be the “primary aggressor”. If you are arrested under such circumstances, and are subsequently charged by the District Attorney, then you may be in danger of losing your right to own or possess a firearm. And it is a lifetime ban. This consequence is not the result of any Wisconsin laws or regulations, but is in fact the result of a Federal prohibition which dates back to the Gun Control Act of 1968, with subsequent amendments, particularly a provision which was almost unanimously approved by Congress in 1996 which essentially states that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence shall be subject to the gun prohibition.

Particularly, the Federal Government considers a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to be any state or federal misdemeanor that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim”. 18 U.S.C. §922.

The law in Wisconsin considers a domestic relationship to be any adult persons who are either married, used to be married to each other, have a child together, or live together or used to live together. In Wisconsin the statutes define domestic abuse as any intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness; any intentional impairment of physical condition; sexual assault; and any physical act that may cause the other person reasonably to fear imminent engagement in any of the other acts just described. §968.075(1)(a) Wis. Stats. Domestic abuse is not a crime in and of itself in Wisconsin, but is in fact a penalty enhancer of other types of criminal offenses. For example, one cannot be charged with domestic abuse by itself, but a person can be charged with Battery – as a Domestic Abuse Offense, or Disorderly Conduct – as a Domestic Abuse offense, and so on.

As you can see, the Federal law and the State law are quite similar in their definitions of domestic abuse (violence). However, it is important to note that both the Federal and State law require some sort of physical force or threat of physical force. Occasionally, overly zealous law enforcement officers or prosecutors will charge a person criminally with a domestic abuse offense where, in reality, there is no evidence of physical force or threat of physical force. Nevertheless, if you have been charged with a domestic abuse offense it would be in your best interest to hire an experienced and aggressive attorney who can advocate on your behalf right away. In addition, if domestic abuse has not been added on as an enhancer to an underlying criminal charge, but there are in fact allegations of domestic abuse in the charging documents that have been filed with the court, it is still possible for a person to be subject to the Federal gun prohibition, banning that person from ever owning a gun again, and if they do they can be prosecuted in federal court and be sent to federal prison for up to 10 years.

Losing your right to own or possess a firearm is a serious consequence of any criminal charge and many of my clients find that penalty to be more serious than any fines or jail that may be imposed.

You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from an attorney or other professional legal service provider. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult you attorney or other professional legal services provider. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website. 

The law firm of Simon & Feldhausen, LLC is a Green Bay law office made up of Green Bay attorneys/lawyers who are experienced in the area of criminal defense and how those charges can impact a person’s employment, freedom, driver’s license, and other areas of a person’s life.