Both California and the Federal Government have strict laws for gun ownership. Those who have experienced mental health issues resulting in an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility under a 5250 hold face serious challenges to their gun ownership rights. If you have been issued a 5250 in the past and are seeking restoration of your right to own a firearm, a lawyer experienced in mental health cases can help you navigate state and federal laws.
Under What Circumstances Is Someone Put Under a 5250?
If you have been involuntarily detained in mental health facility pursuant to a 72-hour 5150 hold and your doctors believe you need to be held for evaluation and treatment for a longer period, they can pursue a 14-day extension, called a 5250 hold.
You have the right to a Certification Review Hearing if you do not agree with your doctor’s decision. A 5250 holds lawyer can prepare you for, guide you through, and fight for your release at this hearing.
To keep you for the additional hold, the facility must present evidence proving you continue to be a danger to yourself or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for your basic needs.
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Can You Own a Firearm After a 5250?
The State of California and the Federal Government have different responses to this question. If you are seeking restoration of your gun ownership rights, you will need the help of a skilled mental health attorney.
The State-Level Response
A person who has been put under a 5250 hold is banned from owning a firearm for five years. California WIC 8103 states, “A person who has been certified for intensive treatment under Section 5250, 5260, or 5270.15 shall not own, possess, control, receive, or purchase, or attempt to own, possess, control, receive, or purchase, any firearm for a period of five years.”
When you are discharged from the facility holding you for the 5250, you must be informed of your right to petition the court to lift the ban prior to the expiration of the five-year ban. The facility must provide you with the most updated “Patient Notification of Firearm Prohibition and Right to Hearing Form” at or right before your discharge, as per the Department of Justice.
The Federal-Level Response
U.S. Code 922 makes it illegal for anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution” to possess or receive firearms or ammunition.
The Code of Federal Regulations defines “committed to a mental institution” as including a person’s formal commitment to a facility by a “court, board, commission, or other lawful authority,” and encompassing those who have been committed to a facility involuntarily. It does not include those who were voluntarily admitted to a facility, or those admitted only for observation.
A 5250 hold is involuntary and is intended not just for observation but for the treatment of a mental illness. As a result, despite the State of California’s position, federal courts often determine a 5250 hold triggers the federal lifetime gun-ownership ban, making it extremely difficult for those with a 5250 record to own a gun.
How Does the Government Know About My 5250?
Medical records are private and confidential. However, when a person is committed to a medical facility in California
- As a danger to themselves
- As a danger to others
- With a grave disability, or
- For intensive mental health treatment
Then the facility must notify the California Department of Justice (DOJ) within 24 hours. This electronic notification includes the person’s identifying information and the legal grounds for their commitment.
California Proposition 63, which was voted into law in 2016, requires the California DOJ to report records of those under California’s firearm bans to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
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Can I Fight the Lifetime Ban?
Fighting the lifetime ban and having your second amendment rights restored will be an uphill battle. Every case is different, so your best course of action is to consult with a skilled mental health attorney. Your attorney will review your case and all relevant records to determine if restoration is possible.
For example, if records show you were placed under a 5250 in error or illegally, your lawyer may fight for restoration on those grounds.
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Can My Spouse or Others I Live with Own a Firearm?
Under California Penal Code 25100, it is illegal for a person who can legally own a gun and lives with a person prohibited from gun ownership to store a loaded gun in the home or in an area under the legal gun owner’s control. This means the gun owner must keep the gun unloaded and stored in a place not accessible to the person prohibited from owning a firearm, such as a locked container.
What Happens if I Am Caught with an Illegally Purchased Gun?
In California, owning a gun illegally brings a range of penalties. Depending on the circumstances, you may face fines of up to $10,000, or significant prison time, even up to 20 years.
Can I Own a Firearm After a 5150 Hold?
Though 5150 holds are involuntary, they are intended for “observation.” Therefore, a 5150 hold does not necessarily trigger the federal lifetime gun ownership ban.
In California, if you own a gun at the time of your 5150, law enforcement can remove your firearm from you temporarily and petition for its permanent removal. You may still be able to purchase another firearm. If you are detained on a 5150 and then officially admitted to an inpatient mental facility because you are a danger to yourself or others, the state’s law prohibits you from buying or owning a firearm for five years, and the federal lifetime ban will likely also apply.
Review Your Options with a Mental Health Attorney
The laws for gun ownership and the laws governing mental health policies are complicated on their own. When you have to consider both areas together, the complexity increases. For a full and accurate understanding of your situation and options, have a knowledgeable and experienced mental health lawyer conduct a free review of your case.