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Virginia firearm law risks a conviction even if not caught redhanded

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Virginia firearm law- image of 9mm bullets

Virginia firearm law can ensnare a person appearing to point a firearm, when the weapon is found nearby

Virginia firearm law is among the most Second Amendment-friendly in the nation, but does not greenlight firearm possession by convicted felons nor reckless handling of such weapons. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that being caught redhanded in unlawful possession of a firearm is not the only way a Virginia weapons conviction can be obtained. Circumstantial evidence ordinarily also is permitted for pursuing a conviction for any any alleged crime in the commonwealth. The Virginia Court of Appeals most recently addressed this matter when this month affirming the conviction against Gerald Keith Turner for felony possession of a firearm after conviction of a non-violent felony under Virginia Code § 18.2-308.2, misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm under Va. Code § 18.2-56.1(A), misdemeanor discharging of a firearm in public under Va. Code § 18.2-280, misdemeanor firearm transportation while under a protective order under Va. Code § 18.2-308.1:4, and misdemeanor obstruction of justice under Va. Code § 18.2-460.1. Commonwealth of Virginia v. Turner, Record No. 0783-21-1 (Va. App, July 12, 2022) (unpublished).

What led police to arrest Gerald Turner for violating the Virginia weapons laws?

Early in the morning during a block party, in this Virginia firearm case, a police officer heard a single gunshot. Soon thereafter, the officer saw Gerald Turner holding a black handgun, pointing it toward the sky and then in the direction of  a private residence. The officer saw nobody else with a firearm. When police officers instructed Turner to drop the gun, he walked out of the first police officer’s view for around ten seconds and then reappeared. In a search of Turner incident to his arrest, the police found a 9 mm bullet. Next to where the first police officer saw Turner was a spent 9 mm shell casing. Within ten feet of where Turner was first seen, was found a 9 mm handgun. Turner. The jury convicted Turner, and he received a substantial incarceration sentence.

Beware the fallout from Virginia firearm law if you are possessing a weapon close in time to shots being fired outside in a neighborhood

The law will not automatically save you against the Virginia firearm law merely because police find the weapon on the ground — rather than on your person — and after a brief period of not seeing you. Under the circumstances, that was about the best Turner could have argued, but he got no mileage on that line of argument. He now is serving four years and three months for all the above-listed convicted counts against him.

What should I do if I possess a handgun in a location where gunshots are fired unlawfully?

If you are near such criminal activity as unlawful discharge of a firearm, it is ideal to distance yourself from such activity, and certainly not to exacerbate the situation by displaying the weapon, let alone pointing it at a private residence. If you get prosecuted for any alleged weapons violations, it is time for you to obtain a qualified lawyer to defend you.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz stays focused on your best defense against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 to schedule your free in-person consultation about your court-pending case.