Virginia Supreme Court Reopens Door On Gun-Rights Restoration For Felons

Virginia Citizens Defense League
Virginia Citizens Defense League

Covington VA –-(Ammoland.com)- Defense attorney Richard Gardiner, who amongst other things is VCDL’s corporate attorney, just had an important victory in the Virginia Supreme Court.

For the last few years, because of a bad legal opinion by a Fairfax judge, felons who have had their civil rights restored by the Governor have been unable to get their firearms rights restored. The judge came up with a “unique” legal theory that he did not have the constitutional power to restore firearm rights.

Other judges in other jurisdictions deferred to that opinion claiming that they, too, didn’t have the power. That left the citizen in a hopeless position with no way to get his gun rights restored.

Richard appealed one such case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 0 that Circuit Court judges most certainly do have the power to restore the firearm rights of a felon who has had his civil rights restored by the Governor.

This is important to all of us. With more and more laws on the books and more and more felonies to “get tough on crime,” any of us could become an inadvertent felon. I’ve said it before and will say it again: we need to reverse this trend. Felonies should be for very serious crimes, not for killing the wrong frog, having bolt cutters in the trunk of our car, or inadvertently stepping onto school property while carrying.

From therepublic.com: http://tinyurl.com/8hr3527

State Supreme Court says Virginia courts have say in restoring felons’ firearm rights

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS September 14, 2012 – 6:50 pm EDT

RICHMOND, Va. — The state Supreme Court ruled Friday the courts have the sole discretion in Virginia whether felons who have served their time can have their firearm rights restored.

The justices ruled in the case of two felons who had their political rights separately restored by former Gov. Tim Kaine and current Gov. Bob McDonnell. In both instances, the governors restored the former felons’ rights to vote, hold office and sit on a jury.

Both former felons, however, were not granted the right to ship, transport, possess or receive firearms. The two appealed to circuit courts in Fairfax and Buchanan counties and both courts denied the appeals.

The justices wrote that Kaine and McDonnell correctly exercised their constitutional authority in restoring political rights, and properly referred the question about the rights on firearms to circuit courts.

“The jurisdiction to restore firearm rights lost in those circumstances is vested solely in the circuit court,” they wrote.

The justices added, “A person convicted of a felony in Virginia must first obtain an order from the governor removing his political disabilities as a condition precedent to his right to petition the circuit court for restoration of his firearm rights.”

Such decisions, the court wrote, involve local concerns about public safety and should provide an opportunity for local prosecutors to have a say in the proceedings.

The justices said the lower courts erred in concluding that the governors’ actions precluded them from acting on rights involving firearms.

The Supreme Court returned both appeals to the lower courts for further review.

About:
Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit: www.vcdl.org

  • 18 thoughts on “Virginia Supreme Court Reopens Door On Gun-Rights Restoration For Felons

    1. i am a va resedent that has had my gun rights taken away for a non felony crime and would like to get my gun rights restored for hunting porposes everyone in my famly hunts and for years all i have been able to do is hunt with a bow, what can i do to get my rights back without spending a bunch nof money in this day and age there is not a whole lot of money going around and hunting is a big part of our food supply

      1. I can help you, I had a friend in the courthouse who stuck her neck out for me and she will never be known but I know what to do and I can do it for you depending on where you live and how much the court costs are it will not be as expensive as an attorney but I MAKE NO GUARANTEES that you will get it, I am battling the supreme court for my husband right now, my fee is $100 to do it and you also have to pay the court costs, but again I can make no guarantee that you will receive it.

        1. Hi Laurie,
          Are you still offering your services to help one get “things” together for the courts?
          Thanks,
          Scott
          isleyscott at msn dot com

        2. Laurie, what you’re doing is called the unauthorized practice of law and is a crime. If you don’t know what to do, you should hire an attorney.

    2. A little leg work is all it takes. Once you have your papers with the governors seal reinstating your civil rights you take those and go to your local circuit court and petition the courts. I had to draw up my own petition and present that once all the paperwork was turned in with about 50 bucks in court costs I was given a court date before the judge and stated my case. He granted the petition then you have to send copies of all the papers and petitions ( signed of course ) to the va state police so they can update the transaction database then your all good. Start to finish took about three months with all my procrastinating.

      1. Todd I have begun all my paperwork and sent it to the courthouse. I am now awaiting a hearing date but the circuit court clerk is saying that I need an order prepared for the judge to sign but I do not know what order they are talking about. Do you have any info on what this order may pertain to so that I am ready to go when time comes for the hearing.

    3. Laurie, what you’re doing is called the unauthorized practice of law and is a crime. If you don’t know what to do, you should hire an attorney.

    4. So, can anyone offer me help?
      I was convicted of a few felonies in a few jurisdictions several (about 29 years) ago. Non-violent (BE and Grand Larceny on business’ , not people’s homes)
      I have lived in shame and silence for so many years. I never pursued restoration of rights as I was told to not bother (street talk).
      I thought about it a few years back when the last Governor was in office but again, due to listening to “street attorneys” I never bothered as I was told that more than 1 felony meant do not bother.
      I want my rights back. 30 years down the road and I am tired of not being allowed to live my life. I love guns. always have and I guess I always will.
      Any that can offer sound advice would be greatly appreciated. More than words can describe.
      Yes, all convictions in Va. In 5 different jurisdictions.

      Thank You 🙂

      1. I am not sure why 5 felonies will make a difference. You have a lot of time between your deeds and today. Go the the Secretary of the Commonwealths website and download the forms. You have to use the correct form so you need to know whether you crimes are classified as “violent felonies” or not. A violent felony by does not mean that force had to be used or that no one was injured. The short form is for non violent felonies the long form is for all others. Be prepared to tell the folks in Richmond what a good guy you are now as opposed to then. You can hire an attorney for help. It won’t break the bank. After your civil rights are restored you petition the court where you live for restoration of firearm rights. Use an attorney for this as well as they know the Commonwealth Attorney in your court house. You want someone to speak on your behalf. Get character witnesses ready to provide all good guy references…your church, boss, neighbors etc. it is not as difficult as some think. Good luck!

    5. It’s even easier than that now for nonviolent felons, you just go to a website for the Commonwealth, fill in some info, and click “submit”. All in all I had my certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights come in the mail a month or so later. A few years ago when I first looked into it, Drug Distribution was grouped with ” violent felonies” automatically for some unknown reason, but it has since been updated to a more realistic format so I was able to use the online automatic Restoration form for my 2 2002 distribution of marijuana felony convictions. Try the easy online filling first, and if that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to mess around with mailing in the long forms and getting letters about your character from people, etc. Good luck!

        1. Still working on that part as of 4/12/2016. I will come back and let you know when I get an update!

          After this, I plan on writing for a Simple Pardon (as it has been so many years)

          On another note, my attorney who is handling the gun rights restoration was digging up my past, he found 2 felonies that were not on my record (again, all the same time frame) and I suspect that this also is an error on the reporting part on the courts side.

          Again, I will keep you informed.

    6. Jim and Justin,
      Thank you both for responding. UPDATE: I had my rights restored, all but the right to own, carry, transport, etc…firearms.
      I was actually surprised. It took me filling out the form and emailing it in. I received a call about first of November from someone, I have forgotten his name, he asked my place of birth and said they would process my application. Low and behold, by the end of Nov., I had a document delivered via snail mail, sealed by Gov. and Comm. Secretary that I now have my political rights restored!!! That easy and no cost.
      I am not a smart person, not really. The whole petition thing befuddles me. I keep finding law offices offices that work for a “flat fee” but make no promises (in other words, they can do a half-baked attempt and get nothing done but I’m on the hook for 1k up.
      If anyone, either of you two gentlemen especially, can help, that would be beyond gratitude for the assistance.
      I would put my email out here but I am sure they would block it.
      Again, thank you both for responding. Words of kindness are really nice and encouraging.
      Take care and be well. Have a happy, joyful and fulfilling holiday season!!

    7. I had my civil rights restored a few years ago after filing the forms myself. I am about to file the necessary paperwork to request a simple pardon by the governor as well as petitioning the circuit court to restore my right to possess a firearm. I am going to act pro se, that is I am not going to hire an attorney because I don’t think it necessary. I do not know exactly what to do. I plan on going to the Circuit Court Law Library and see what I can find. Generally speaking, I know how to write a legal petiton but I do not know the exact format for this particular one. Someone here has done this and if he can simply tell me the elements that it contained, that would be helpful. You can find examples by looking for images with Google for “examples of a legal petition to a court of law” something like that. I don’t know if you have to notice the court that you are appearing on your own behalf, that is pro se. A copy of the petition should be sent to the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney in the Circuit Court where you will be filing. An Assistant Commonwealth Attorney will represent the state in opposing your petition. If you are acting pro se, you have the right to speak directly with the Assistant Attorney who will oppose you. This may sound odd, but that is how this works. If you were represented by an attorney, he would be communicating with him instead of you. Some assistant attorney’s may be unprofessional, but most will be cordial and speak with you. He will likely tell you outright whether or not he will oppose your petition. If he states that he will not, that is great, you are now only dealing with the Judge. If the Judge approves your petition, he will sign the order. You have to furnish the order when you file your petition. An Order also follows a particular form. Again, you can get a general idea what that looks like by going to Google and searching for “examples of court order,” something like that. However, again, I don’t know the exact form with respect to restoration of the right to possess and transport firearms after a conviction. I was thinking of contacting the NRA if my visit to Circuit Court did not yield the information I need. So, if anyone can simply provide me with the elements of both the petition and the Order, then I can construct it and put it up somewhere. (A mere sample of what these legal forms look like absent individual legal advice is not practicing law.)

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