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A DUI conviction may limit Second Amendment rights

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2020 | DUI Defense

A recent appeals court ruling may mean that some individuals convicted of driving under the influence in Pennsylvania can lose their Second Amendment right to possess a gun.

The state’s Department of Transportation outlines three levels of DUI, including a “highest blood alcohol content” of .16% or higher. Penalties for this misdemeanor offense may include a prison sentence of up to five years, depending on whether it is the driver’s first or subsequent violation.

Federal regulations may ban firearm purchases

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit considered a case involving a Pennsylvania resident who was unable to buy a gun based on a DUI conviction. A federal regulation prohibits certain criminal offenders from possessing a firearm, and banned individuals include anyone convicted of an offense punishable by more than one year in prison.

Raymond Holloway, Jr. had a DUI conviction in 2002 for driving at the highest blood alcohol content, but a court dismissed that conviction because he participated in a rehabilitation program. In 2005, he again faced DUI charges at the highest blood alcohol content. Under mandatory sentencing guidelines, a court sentenced him to a 60-month “intermediate punishment,” including 90 days in prison.

Serious offenses may prompt federal ban

In 2016, Holloway learned that his 2005 DUI conviction banned him from purchasing a gun under federal law. He sued and argued that this ban violates his Second Amendment rights. The 3rd Circuit concluded that Holloway’s second DUI subjected him to the federal prohibition on firearm possession because the state’s sentencing guidelines evidenced the seriousness of his offense.

Holloway also argued that federal law should not apply because state law does not revoke gun rights until a third DUI. The court rejected this argument and explained that the state prohibition may be even broader than the federal ban because it applies to all levels of DUI.