What Happens If I Get Pulled Over for DUI and I Have a Loaded Gun in My Car in Virginia?
In Virginia, you run the risk of additional firearms charges if you are pulled over for DUI and have a loaded firearm. Even worse, having a loaded weapon during a DUI stop could lead to a dangerous misunderstanding with law enforcement.
As a disclaimer, firearms laws may apply at the federal, state, and even local level, which makes any discussion on this topic complex at best. Some situations (e.g., felony convictions, protective orders, immigration status) bar a person from possessing a firearm under any circumstances. Whether you have already been charged or know that you will be carrying a weapon in your vehicle, there are several facts that you should know if you are pulled over for DUI.
Carrying Loaded Guns in Cars
Virginia law is specific about who can and cannot carry a loaded gun a private motor vehicle. It is permissible to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle if it is secured in a compartment or container, which does not need to be locked. The issue of “locked” versus “secured” has been adjudicated in the Virginia court system, and the courts found that these two are not synonymous. In other words, having your loaded handgun in an unlocked glove compartment is sufficient.
Having a handgun “hidden” or concealed is not the same thing as having it “secured” in the eyes of the law. For example, if you have a handgun underneath a floor mat, in a door side pocket, or under your car seat, this would be a violation of the law unless you carry a specific permit that allows you to do this. Virginia law does not require gun registration, and you are also permitted to carry a rifle or shotgun in a car under certain conditions.
Concealed Guns and Permits
The Code of Virginia §18.2-308 outlines what is lawful for concealed weapons in the Commonwealth. The statute provides that a person may have a handgun anywhere within a vehicle if they hold a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP). A CHP would allow you to have a loaded or unloaded handgun in your vehicle as well as on your person.
To have the protections of a CHP, you must have the actual permit with you and adhere to some other requirements. Among those are agreeing not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs while carrying a concealed weapon. If you do this, you will not only face additional charges but also risk losing your CHP.
How a DUI Can Lead to Weapons Charges
Under Section 18.2-308.012, it is unlawful to be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol while carrying a concealed weapon. A person who is convicted of a DUI, DWI, or public intoxication can also be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor weapons charge.
Virginia’s CHP laws also state that any person who has a felony charge pending or is charged with any other offense that would otherwise disqualify them for a CHP may be required to surrender their CHP to the courts until those charges have been resolved. If convicted, you may have your CHP revoked.
Assuming you were not a CHP holder and had weapons in your car at the time of a DUI stop, you may face weapons charges. People who carry firearms have the duty to do so safely. If you are suspected of DUI, there’s a strong possibility that other charges could follow and that your weapons will be seized.
If you are stopped by the police and have weapons in the car, we advise that you take the most cautious approach possible to your interactions with law enforcement. Roll down your windows, turn on your dome light, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Let the officer know that you have a weapon in the vehicle and ask them how they would like you to proceed. Avoid making any moves without first clearing it with the officer.
Speak With an Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
The guidelines just provided should never be considered a substitute for legal advice. Gun laws are already complex and could change at any point, making adhering to the rules confusing for citizens who are trying to be law-abiding. If you’ve been pulled over for DUI and also find yourself charged with weapons violations, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
The Pack Law Group understands Virginia’s weapons laws as well as any applicable local regulations. We will review your case, and advise you of your options including any defenses that we may be able to put forth on your behalf. Our experienced DUI attorneys can also defend your rights against a DUI charge. Contact us now at (540) 586-7225 or online to schedule an appointment for a consultation.