Most of us have done things when we were young that we are not proud to admit, and some of us have even committed crimes such as shoplifting or vandalism before the age of 18. Many people even become convicted felons as teenagers, losing the right to own a firearm forever before they reach the age where it becomes legal to do so in California.
Losing Your Gun Rights
The Second Amendment provides: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the
security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Although this amendment provides all citizens the right to bear arms, this right is not unlimited, and it can be taken away if you break the law.
If you are convicted of a felony in California, regardless of your age, you are subject to a lifetime ban on gun ownership. The lifetime ban also applies to certain misdemeanors involving the use of a firearm, such as misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, assault with a firearm, or having two convictions for brandishing a firearm.
Two Paths to Restoring Your Second Amendment Rights
Despite the strict ban on gun ownership for people with felony convictions, California offers a couple of ways to regain your Second Amendment rights. If you were convicted as a juvenile under a law that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor (known as a “wobbler”), you can:
- Petition to reduce your felony juvenile conviction to a misdemeanor; or
- Apply for a governor’s pardon.
Reducing a Felony Juvenile Conviction to a Misdemeanor: California Penal Code Section 17(b)
California Penal Code section 17(b) gives the court discretion to reduce a felony juvenile conviction to a misdemeanor offense upon reviewing a petition from the person convicted. If your petition is successful, the lifetime ban on owning a firearm will be reduced to a temporary ban (if any) that your conviction carries as a misdemeanor. However, your petition will need to convince the judge that you deserve to have your conviction reduced. To do this, you should enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully helped clients with these petitions.
A Governor’s Pardon: California Penal Code Section 4852
Alternatively, you can apply to have your gun rights restored by a pardon from the
governor of California. A governor’s pardon has the effect of restoring all rights and privileges that the felony conviction revoked as if the conviction never occurred. 1
There are a few ways to apply for a governor’s pardon. First, if your felony juvenile conviction was in California, but you now live outside of the state, you must apply directly to the governor’s office to be considered for a pardon. You must also apply directly for a pardon if you were convicted of certain misdemeanor or felony sex offenses (primarily those against children age 14 or younger).
If you still live in California, the second path is to petition the court for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which is a special court order that declares you to be completely rehabilitated of the crime for which you were convicted. The certificate serves as an automatic application for a pardon.
To be Eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, you must have the following:
- A conviction for a felony, and a sentence for a term in a California state prison or the Division of Juvenile Justice;
- No incarceration since your release from custody, probation, or parole;
- Proof that you were a California resident for a minimum of five years immediately prior to filing your application, or three years if you were placed on parole; AND
- Proof of a satisfactory period of rehabilitation, which begins from the day you were released from custody.
Importantly, if you were convicted of committing a sexual act against a child age 14 or younger, you are ineligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, and must instead directly apply to the governor’s office.
Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing, at which you must demonstrate that you have been rehabilitated. Before the hearing, the court may require an investigation by the district attorney. At the hearing, the court may require testimony and records pertaining to you, such as information about the offense, as well as your conduct while incarcerated and since release. If your petition is successful, your case will automatically be sent to the governor’s office for consideration of a pardon.
To convince the governor’s office that you deserve a pardon, you will need a skilled attorney who can put together a file that includes your pardon questionnaire, character letters, your criminal history (if any), and your biography so that the governor’s office can get a full picture of why you deserve another chance.
Wallin & Klarich’s Criminal Defense Attorneys are Here to Help
If you were convicted of a felony as a juvenile and you want to restore your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, you should work with a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in the reduction of felonies to misdemeanors, and who has the skill to help you obtain a governor’s pardon. These petitions can be complex and time-consuming, which is why you should seek the help of a professional. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully helping clients in obtaining post-conviction relief for over 30 years. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, San Diego, Torrance and Sherman Oaks, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [See California Penal Code section 4853.]↩