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Can a felon own a pellet gun in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 02, 2019 | 0 Comments

No. Under Colorado Revised Statutes 18-12-108 C.R.S., convicted felons in Colorado are prohibited from knowingly possessing firearms or weapons. This law is abbreviated POWPO in Colorado for possession of a weapon by a previous offender.

Pellet guns

Pellet guns are a type of air gun. Air guns launch projectiles pneumatically using compressed air (or other gases) which are pressurized without chemical reactions. Instead, pellet guns are pressurized mechanically.

Pellets typically have two sections: A head in the front, and a skirt in the back. The head, which holds the center of mass, comes in various shapes, including:

  • flat (wadcutter)
  • round (domed)
  • cone-shaped (pointed)
  • pitted (hollow point)

The skirt, which is hollow, has a larger drag-to-weight ratio than the head does.

Pellets are typically made from either:

  • lead
  • tin
  • steel alloys
  • gold alloys

Discharged pellets do not go as fast as bullets from firearms.

POWPO definition in Colorado

A person can be convicted of POWPO simply by owning a weapon even if he/she does not carry it or use it. Owning is a type of "constructive possession" because owners still wield control over their property.

Example: Shelley gets convicted of felony theft in Colorado. She owns a collection of pellet guns she keeps in her basement. One day her probation officer comes over, and he sees the pellet guns. Shelley argues that she has no intention of using them and that she merely owns them. But Shelley can still be arrested for POWPO because she had control over the pellet guns.

And although pellet guns are not firearms, they are "air guns" and therefore a type of weapon. POWPO laws prohibit possessing all weapons, not just firearms.

POWPO penalties in Colorado

It is usually a class 6 felony for felons to knowingly possess a pellet gun, carrying:

There is also a mandatory parole period of one (1) year.

However, POWPO may be prosecuted as a class 5 felony if:

  1. the defendant's prior crime was for arson, burglary, or any felony involving the use of a deadly weapon, and
  2. the POWPO occurred within 10 years of the previous conviction (or from being released from prison for the previous conviction)

A class 5 felony carries:

  • 1 to 3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000 to $100,000

There is also a mandatory parole period of two (2) years.

A second or subsequent POWPO conviction is a class 4 felony, carrying:

  • 2 to 6 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000 to $500,000

There is also a mandatory parole period of three (3) years.

POWPO defenses in Colorado

The most effective defenses to Colorado POWPO charges turn on the facts of each case. However, common strategies include (but are not limited to):

  • The defendant had no idea he/she had or owned the pellet gun (such as if it was packed in a forgotten box in a storage facility),
  • Police obtained the pellet gun during an illegal search and seizure in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, or
  • The defendant was falsely accused by someone else out of mistake, misidentification, anger or revenge

Learn about how to possibly get gun rights restored through a Colorado Governor's Pardon.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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