In 1994, Paul Anthony Leone was convicted of felony possession of marijuana in Virginia. This conviction stripped him of both his political rights and his right to possess firearms.
Years later, in 2012, Mr. Leone, now living in North Carolina, successfully applied to Governor McDonnell for a restoration of his political rights. Having done so, he then petitioned the Virginia Beach Circuit Court for a restoration of his firearm rights.
Over the objections of the Commonwealth’s Attorney the court granted his petition. The Commonwealth subsequently appealed and the Supreme Court of Virginia ultimately reversed the order on the grounds that the clear text of 18.2-308.2(C) only allows petitioners to “petition the circuit court of the jurisdiction in which he resides.”
Since Mr. Leone admittedly was no longer a resident of the Commonwealth, the court held in Commonwealth v. Leone, 286 Va. 147, 747 S.E.2d 809 (Va., 2013), that the Legislature had “ limited the territorial jurisdiction of circuit courts to adjudication of petitions for restoration filed by persons who reside within the territorial jurisdiction of the circuit court.”
In short, the court held that non-residents need not apply. At least not unless the Legislature were to revisit the issue.
And now for the good news. During the 2015 legislative session, the Legislature did just that.
Delegate Fowler introduced HB1666 to allow non-residents of the Commonwealth who were originally convicted in a Virginia court to petition the circuit court in “the circuit court of any county or city where such person was last convicted of a felony or adjudicated delinquent of a disqualifying offense” for restoration of their firearm rights.
The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor on March 16th. It went into effect on July 1st.
If you are a non-resident of Virginia who falls into this category, I will be happy to speak to you about petitioning for the restoration of your rights in Virginia.