In Colorado, CRS § 18-12-111 makes it a crime to buy or obtain a firearm for someone whom you know to be prohibited from having guns. The unlawful purchase of firearms is a class 4 felony punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
You may also be required to forfeit the unlawfully obtained firearms.
The language of CRS § 18-12-111 states that:
(1) Any person who knowingly purchases or otherwise obtains a firearm on behalf of or for transfer to a person who the transferor knows or reasonably should know is ineligible to possess a firearm pursuant to federal or state law commits a class 4 felony.
(2) (a) Any person who is a licensed dealer, as defined in 18 U.S.C. sec. 921 (a) (11), shall post a sign displaying the provisions of subsection (1) of this section in a manner that is easily readable. The person shall post such sign in an area that is visible to the public at each location from which the person sells firearms to the general public.
(b) Any person who violates any provision of this subsection (2) commits a class 2 petty offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is the unlawful purchase of firearms in Colorado?
- 2. Do the penalties include prison?
- 3. How can CRS 18-12-111 charges be fought?
- 4. Is the crime deportable?
- 5. Can the record be sealed?
1. What is the unlawful purchase of firearms in Colorado?
It is a CRS 18-12-111 violation for people to buy or transfer a gun to someone else that they know – or reasonably should know – cannot possess guns under Colorado or federal law.1
Example: Jeff lost his gun rights after getting a robbery conviction in Denver. His friend Adam knows about this. Adam then buys Jeff a gun for his birthday. Here, Adam violated CRS 18-12-111 because he obtained a gun to give to Jeff, who Adam knew cannot possess guns.
The following people are prohibited from possessing firearms in Colorado:
- Convicted felons;
- People convicted of domestic violence;
- People convicted of any crime carrying a prison term of more than 1 year;
- Subjects of a protective order that prohibits possession of a firearm;
- Fugitives from justice;
- Drug addicts or unlawful users;
- Illegal aliens;
- Legal aliens with a non-immigrant visa (usually);
- People committed to any mental institution or adjudicated a “mental defective” under U.S. law;
- Dishonorably discharged Armed Forces veterans;
- People who have renounced their U.S. citizenship2
2. Do the penalties include prison?
Potentially. Unlawfully purchasing a firearm in Colorado is a class 4 felony, which carries a sentence of:
- 2 to 6 years in Colorado State Prison (with a mandatory 3 year parole period), and/or
- $2,000 to $500,000 in fines
There is also a mandatory parole period of 3 years.
Note that licensed gun dealers who fail to visibly post a sign displaying the provisions of CRS 18-12-111(1) face charges for a civil infraction carrying up to $100 in fines.3
3. How can CRS 18-12-111 charges be fought?
Three potential defense arguments to Colorado charges of unlawful purchase or transfer of a gun are:
- No knowledge of the lack of gun rights. If the defendant believed the person he/she got the firearm for had the right to have a gun, then the CRS 18-12-111 charges should not stand. Perhaps the defendant was lied to or tricked. A criminal defense attorney would compile evidence – such as recorded communications and eyewitnesses – to show that the defendant had no criminal intent.
- No loss of gun rights. Perhaps law enforcement mistakenly believed that the person the defendant bought the gun for had lost his/her gun rights. Perhaps there was a clerical error, or perhaps the person got pardoned and had his/her gun rights restored. A criminal defense lawyer would collect proof – such as court dockets and pardon papers if applicable – to show that anyone the defendant obtained the guns for could possess them.
- Illegal search. Prosecutors may not rely on evidence – including guns – that the police obtained through an illegal search. If law enforcement may have executed an unlawful search, the defense attorney can ask the judge to suppress any evidence found from the search. And if the court agrees, the D.A. may be left with too weak a case to prosecute and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
4. Is the crime deportable?
Yes. Firearm-related convictions are typically grounds for removal in the U.S.4 Therefore, non-citizens facing charges of unlawful purchase of firearms should consult an experienced attorney immediately. It may be possible to get the case dropped or reduced to a non-deportable offense.
5. Can the record be sealed?
Yes. Convictions for unlawfully purchasing a firearm in violation of CRS 18-12-111(1) may be sealed three (3) years after the case ends. But if the charge gets dismissed, there is no wait to petition for a seal.5
Learn how to get a Colorado criminal record seal so that past convictions no longer come up on background checks.