It is a felony offense, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, for certain people to possess a firearm. D.C. Code § 22-4503.
Although this crime is frequently referred to Felon In Possession of a Firearm, the offense also extends to other categories of people, including:
- a fugitive from justice (that is, someone who is wanted by law enforcement in either D.C. or another jurisdiction);
- anyone who is addicted to an illegal drug or substance;
- anyone who is the subject of a protective or stay-away order or who has been ordered by a court to relinquish possession of any firearms; and
- anyone who has been convicted within the last 5 years of an “intrafamily” or domestic violence offense.
A conviction for being a felon in possession (FIP) of a firearm includes a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year. There is a mandatory minimum of three years in cases in which the defendant had a prior conviction for a crime of violence other than conspiracy. In that case, the maximum sentence also increases to 15 years.
Other defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm (e.g., drug addicts and fugitives from justice) will be sentenced to 2 to 10 years imprisonment and/or will receive a maximum fine of $15,000. D.C. Criminal Code § 22-4503.
“Possession” may be actual or constructive. If the person has the firearms in his hands or on his person, this is “actual possession.” “Constructive possession” is when the person, while not physically possessing the firearm, has the intent and power to control it.
“Firearm” is defined as a weapon, regardless of operability, that is designed as or readily converted into a device that can expel a bullet or other projectile by an action of an explosive.