What is the Virginia Law on Reckless Handling of a Firearm?
Virginia’s Reckless Handling of a Firearm Law is Va. Code 18.2-56.1:
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to handle recklessly any firearm so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
A1. Any person who handles any firearm in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life and causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
B. If this section is violated while the person is engaged in hunting, trapping or pursuing game, the trial judge may, in addition to the penalty imposed by the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, revoke such person’s hunting or trapping license and privileges to hunt or trap while possessing a firearm for a period of one to five years.
C. Upon a revocation pursuant to subsection B hereof, the clerk of the court in which the case is tried pursuant to this section shall forthwith send to the Department of Wildlife Resources (i) such person’s revoked hunting or trapping license or notice that such person’s privilege to hunt or trap while in possession of a firearm has been revoked and (ii) a notice of the length of revocation imposed. The Department shall keep a list which shall be furnished upon request to any law-enforcement officer, the attorney for the Commonwealth or court in this Commonwealth, and such list shall contain the names and addresses of all persons whose license or privilege to hunt or trap while in possession of a firearm has been revoked and the court which took such action.
D. If any person whose license to hunt and trap, or whose privilege to hunt and trap while in possession of a firearm, has been revoked pursuant to this section, thereafter hunts or traps while in possession of a firearm, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and, in addition to any penalty imposed by the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, the trial judge may revoke such person’s hunting or trapping license and privileges to hunt or trap while in possession of a firearm for a period of one year to life. The clerk of the court shall notify the Department of Wildlife Resources as is provided in subsection C herein.
So there are three different offenses in the Reckless Handling of a Firearm statute:
- A. Recklessly Handling a Firearm “so as to endanger life, limb, or property” without actually causing injuries to someone. This is a Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
- A1. Recklessly Handling a Firearm “in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life” and then actually causing serious injuries. This is a Class 6 Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and/or a $2,500 fine.
- D. Hunting with a firearm after having your license to hunt revoked or suspend pursuant to this statute previously. This is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
The commonwealth has the burden to prove you actually handled the firearm “recklessly.” One way for them to prove this will be to use statements that you make to the police. You have the right to remain silent, and you should not talk to the police without the advice and presence of your lawyer.
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