Georgia Criminal Law – Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon

A felony conviction has serious consequences. It remains on your criminal record permanently, making jobs and housing extremely difficult to obtain. Aside from incarceration, probation, fines, counseling, and other conditions the sentencing judge may impose, a felony conviction also strips away certain constitutional rights. One of these rights is the right to possess a firearm. In enacting the below statute prohibiting the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the General Assembly has sought to keep guns out of the hands of those individuals who by their prior conduct have demonstrated they may not possess a firearm without being a threat to society. This article will explain the three key components of the criminal offense, the punishment, and defenses.

The Offense

It is illegal for any person who has been convicted of a felony to possess a firearm. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-131.

Felony convictions include: any person who is on felony first offender probation, felony conditional discharge probation, or has been convicted of a felony in Georgia or any other state (also includes U.S. territories and courts of foreign nations).

A “firearm,” includes any handgun, rifle, shotgun, or other weapon which will or can be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or electrical charge. Therefore, toys or non-functioning replicas do not qualify as weapons. However, it is important to note that even disassembled firearms or even projectiles by themselves constitute “firearms” under the statute.

To prove possession, the prosecution must establish has two requirements, a culpable mental state and the act of possessing a firearm. First, the prosecution must establish the person knowingly possessed  a firearm. Knowledge can be proven through direct evidence (person’s statement admitting possession) or through circumstantial evidence (firearm found on person’s bed side table and nobody else had access to the house). Possession can be further broken down into two categories, actual and constructive possession. Actual possession is what it sounds like. If you have a firearm in your hand (or holster, or in your waistband), you are in actual possession of a firearm. Constructive possession, however, is a situation where you have control or dominion over property without being in actual possession of it. For example, imagine you are seated in the front passenger seat of a vehicle along with the driver. The vehicle is pulled over, searched by police, and illegal drugs are found in the center console. Although neither you nor the driver was in actual possession of the drugs, you are both arguably in constructive possession of the drugs because of your mutual ability to access and control of the drugs.


A person convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon shall be sentenced to no less than one year and no more than ten years. If this is a second or subsequent conviction, the person shall be sentenced to prison for no less than five and no more than ten years. If the underlying felony was a “forcible felony” the person shall be sentenced to five years imprisonment. A forcible felony is defined as, “any felony involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person . . .”


There are several defenses available to a person charged with this offense. One is to challenge the underlying conviction. If the conviction is not a felony or was a felony but was discharged under the First Offender Act or conditional discharge sentence, then there is no underlying felony. This offense also does not apply to those who have been convicted but had their convictions pardoned by the state.

The next available defense is to challenge the required mental state; that the person was “knowingly” in possession of a firearm. You cannot be in possession of something that you have no knowledge of.

The defense may also challenge whether the person was in constructive possession. In Harvey v. State, the court found insufficient evidence the defendant was in constructive possession of a firearm (by a convicted felon) even though defendant’s name appeared on documents in closet of apartment where firearm was found; the gun was found on the floor next to an unidentified individual, defendant’s name was not on the lease, and defendant had no belongings inside the apartment. 344 Ga.App. 7 (2017).

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

Can a Spouse of a Convicted Felon Own a Gun in Georgia?

By:  Mary Agramonte

Georgia law prohibits people convicted of felonies from possessing firearms. Similarly, people currently on first offender probation are also not allowed to carry guns. You must be discharged from probation as a first offender without an adjudication of guilt in order to lawfully possess a firearm. Felons cannot have guns unless and until their rights are restored in the State of Georgia.

But what if you are a convicted felon and someone else near you owns a gun? Or what if you are in the same vehicle as someone who has a gun? Likewise, one of the questions we are asked most often is “can my spouse or partner have a gun in the same home as me if I am a felon?”

The short answer is: it depends. The question that is going to be asked by law enforcement and the Courts is whether or not the State can prove YOU possessed the gun. You do not have to actually have it in your hand or your pocket in order to be charged and convicted with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. In some instances, it simply has to be near you, or in a place where the circumstances point to the weapon being yours. This is because Georgia law recognizes two different kinds of ‘possession.’ The first is Actual Possession and the other kind is Constructive Possession.

Actual Possession is where you truly possess the gun: it is in your pocket or in your car, for example. With Constructive Possession, the line can be a little more blurry on whether or not you will be arrested or convicted of possession the firearm by a convicted felon. When  dealing with Constructive Possession, you can be arrested for possessing a firearm even if you never possessed it. The State can prove it through circumstantial evidence. For example, constructive possession occurs where a gun is in a shared hotel room with you and a friend, and you know the gun is there, and you tell police where it is. In that situation, the State will allege you had possession of the firearm- even if you never touched it. Another example of constructive possession would be if the gun was found in the drawer of a shared bedroom, near clothes that match your gender. Additionally, you can be charged with possession of a firearm by convicted felony if your co-defendant carried a gun in an armed robbery that you were a part of even if you never touched the gun.

So the answer to the age-old question is yes, your spouse can own a gun as long as you don’t possess it- actually or constructively, but to be wary as the distinction is not always clear. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, call us today for a free consultation on the case at 404-581-0999.

Theft by Receiving Stolen Firearm

  Under § OCGA 16-8-7, a person commits the offense of theft by receiving stolen property when he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which he knows or should know was stolen.” If the item in question is less than $1,500, it is a misdemeanor, meaning the maximum punishment that someone can receive is a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If the item reportedly stolen and possessed is worth more than $1,500, then that person will be charged with a felony. The punishment in that situation can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years in prison.

What’s my defense for stolen firearm?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with this offense, know that there are defenses in Georgia law. Possession of stolen property, alone, will not warrant a criminal conviction that will be carried forever. The State must prove knowledge that the item was stolen.  This knowledge, however, can be inferred from the circumstances, specifically if the circumstances would create suspicion it was stolen in the mind of an ordinarily prudent person.

If the item in question is a firearm, the crime will automatically be charged as a felony carrying 1 to 5 years in prison if convicted. The good news is courts have ruled in defendants’ favor in various situations. For example, it is insufficient to prove the person knew the gun was stolen just because it was bought on the street at a reduced price. Additionally, even if the gun is labeled for Law Enforcement use, this too is also insufficient for a criminal conviction for this charge.        

We can help!

     The attorneys of W. Scott Smith have handled numerous Theft by Receiving charges all over the state of Georgia, many of which involved stolen firearms. Because this is a felony charge, it is imperative to have attorneys on your side familiar with the law and defenses.  Call us today with your questions on Theft by Receiving Stolen Firearm. We offer FREE CONSULTATIONS at 404-581-0999.

by Mary Agramonte

Violation of Weapons Carry Permit

     Georgia law allows people to possess handguns inside their home, car, or place of business, without a weapons carry license (sometimes known as a“concealed carry permit”). Likewise, you are also lawfully allowed to carry a loaded gun on your body, but it has to be carried in an open and fully exposed way. The issue of carrying a weapon becomes illegal when you want to carry it in a concealed way.

Concealed Carry Permits 

           If you want to carry your loaded gun in your purse, brief case, book bag, or under your clothing, you will need to apply for a weapons carry license. If you are found to be in possession of a firearm in your purse, but you do not have a weapons license, you can be arrested for the offense of Carrying a Weapon without a Valid Weapons Carry license.

           Under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126, Georgia treats a first offense of this as a misdemeanor charge, meaning the maximum penalty is $1,000 fine and 12 months in jail if convicted. Once convicted, you lose your right to lawfully carry your concealed weapon forever, so it is important to hire a defense team prevent the snowball effect of a conviction under this statute. If you are convicted for a second time for this crime within the past five years, Georgia treats it as a felony. Georgia law requires a prison sentence of two to five years on a second conviction.

Concealed Carry Limitations

           There are several places you cannot bring a concealed weapon despite having a valid weapons carry license. These places include courthouses, jail or prisons, and within 150 feet of polling places when elections are being conducted. Having a gun in these locations can also result in a misdemeanor charge despite having a valid weapons carry permit.  

           Concealed carry permits can be obtained through your local probate court. You must be 21 years or older to apply, and have lawful presence in the United States as well as be a resident in the County you apply.  You may be able to obtain a firearms license if you are between 18 and 21 if you are in active service with the military or have been honorably discharged. The probate court will run a criminal background check, which in some situations could result in you being ineligible for a carry permit.

Many States share reciprocity with Georgia as far as allowing you to carry in Georgia, with your out of state license. Those States are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia,Wisconsin and Wyoming. Your Georgia firearms license will also be looked as valid in the states mentioned with reciprocity.

           If you have been arrested for Carrying a Weapon without a Valid Weapons Carry License, and have questions about your rights, then call the Law Office of W.Scott Smith. We will provide a free case evaluation.

by Mary Agramonte