Washington DC Gun Crimes Lawyer

The District of Columbia gun possession statute is complicated and criminalizes a wide range of possession, carrying, and usage of weapons. The two main categories are:

  • Carrying a pistol without a license, and
  • Unlawful possession of firearm


The most common and also serious of gun charges is carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL).

The statute provides that no person may:

  • Carry either openly or concealed
  • On or about their person
  • A pistol without a license
  • Or any deadly or dangerous weapon

The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual charged knowingly and intentionally carried a pistol in plain view or concealed about his/her person.

The pistol has to be operable or appeared to be operable.

The person was not licensed to carry the pistol or it was carried in a place outside the person’s home, place of business, or land or property controlled by the individual charged.

The criminal exposure of CPWL conviction is a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a $5,000 fine. Carrying and possession  of firearm while committing a crime of violence or dangerous crime significantly increase the penalties.

A “pistol” is defined as a firearm with a barrel less than 12 inches in length. A “firearm” is defined as a weapon that will expel a bullet by means of an explosive.


The step down charge to CPWL in Washington DC is possession of unregistered firearm.

The statutory elements provide that it is illegal to possess firearm:

  • In the person’s dwelling place
  • Place of business, or on other land possessed by the person,
  • A pistol or firearm that could have otherwise been registered

The penalties for first time offense carries in addition to fines imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both.

The control and possession of the firearm can either be actual or constructive. The constructive possession is defined as knowledge of the presence of the firearm and intention to exercise control over the firearm.


Current DC weapons’ law allow for legal possession and carrying of certain registered weapons. For the specific eligibility and requirement see below:

With a valid registration for a firearm, one may carry the firearm:

  1. Within the registrant’s home;
  2. While it is being used for lawful recreational purposes;
  3. While it is kept at the registrant’s place of business; or
  4. While it is being transported for a lawful purpose as expressly authorized by District or federal statute.


Any person who is lawfully authorized and licensed to possess and carry a weapon may transport the firearm by a vehicle under these conditions:

  1. The firearm shall be unloaded,
  2. The firearm and the ammunition shall not be accessible from the passenger compartment;
  3. If the vehicle is not fitted with a separate compartment from the driver’s compartment, then the firearm or ammunition must be placed in a locked container other than the glove compartment and the weapon must be unloaded.

Generally a licensed weapon may be transported as long as it is transported unloaded, in a locked container, and separate from the ammunition.


It is prohibited and illegal to carry weapons in gun free zones, which are generally within 1000-ft of:

  • public or private day care center,
  • elementary school,
  • vocational school,
  • secondary school,
  • college, junior college, or university,
  • or any public swimming pool, playground, video arcade,
  • youth center, or public library, or in and around public housing

Violation of this section would cause enhanced penalties, that is fines and imprisonment of up to twice that otherwise be authorized under the statute.


It is unlawful to possess or control firearms if:

  1. Have a conviction punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Not licensed to sell weapons, and the person has been convicted of violating this chapter;
  3. Fugitive from justice;
  4. Addicted to any controlled substance,
  5. Subject to a court order such as restraining order to relinquish possession of all firearms;
  6. Has been convicted within the past 5 years of an intrafamily offense

Violation of this section carry a maximum sentence of up to 10 years and a mandatory minimum of one year incarceration.

DC weapons cases are generally vigorously prosecuted.  Hiring a Washington DC gun crimes lawyer will significantly reduce or minimize the criminal exposure.

Contact our Washington DC criminal lawyer expert in DC gun possession cases today for a thorough case evaluation and analysis.