CHEYENNE -- Some Wyoming lawmakers want to make certain that people accused of misdemeanor domestic violence realize that pleading guilty would cost them their federal gun rights.
A bill drafted for the upcoming legislative session would require judges to inform defendants that a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction would cost them their gun rights. The bill would also classify misdemeanor domestic violence as a serious offense requiring defendants to have lawyers.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, is the bill's main sponsor. He was also the author of a 2004 state law that sought to establish a procedure for misdemeanor domestic violence convicts to expunge their first conviction and regain their firearms rights. The federal courts later rejected that law.
Case's 2004 law was a response to a 1996 federal law that expanded the ban that prohibits convicted felons from owning guns to include anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Now obviously, I have no sympathy for those who commit actual domestic violence against their spouses or domestic partners, but those so accused ought to know the consequences of pleading guilty before they do so, and have the benefit of an attorney to advice and defend them in court. As discussed in my posts here and here, for example, false domestic violence accusations are not unheard of in divorce proceedings. As I wrote back then,
The problem of domestic violence is real, and many women (and some men) undoubtedly live their lives in fear of their spouses or significant others. The ease with which the legal protections afforded by restraining orders can be abused by spouses or significant others, however, is also a real and growing problem. As the first article shows, the problem is exacerbated by judges who rubber-stamp restraining order applications, even in the face of evidence suggesting that the person seeking the order is doing so not out of real fear for her safety, but as a tool to punish the other party or gain tactical advantage in divorce or child custody proceedings. ...
Given the potential for false DV accusations and the lifetime loss of gun rights resulting from misdemeanor DV convictions, a law requiring judges to inform those accused of such crimes of the loss of Second Amendment rights that would result from a guilty plea (or a conviction), along with the right to an attorney to advise and defend the accused in court, seems like a reasonable thing.