Carrying a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle

The possession of firearms is legal in Washington, as long as you hold the proper permits and have a clean criminal record. In today’s blog, we discuss in more detail the laws around firearm possession in a motor vehicle, who is not allowed to possess a firearm, and the penalties for violating these state possession laws.

Carrying in a Motor Vehicle

Washington law prohibits the carrying of any loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed pistol license, unless:

  • the handgun is on the licensee's person;
  • the pistol is unloaded;
  • the licensee is within the vehicle at all times the handgun is present; or
  • the licensee is away from the vehicle and the handgun is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view.

Note that an unloaded handgun kept in a vehicle must be locked within the vehicle and concealed from view. If a loaded pistol is in a vehicle, the vehicle may not be left unattended. Additionally, an individual may not carry any loaded weapon upon, nor hunt from, any snowmobile except by permit issued by the director of fish and wildlife. The state also generally prohibits the possession or transportation of a loaded rifle or shotgun in or on a motor vehicle.

The carrying of a firearm or ammunition in a transit vehicle or in a transit station is illegal and punishable by state law. Note that a “transit station” is definedaspassenger facilities, structures, stops, shelters, bus zones, properties, and rights-of-way of all kinds that are owned, leased, held, or used by a transit authority for the purpose of providing public transportation services.

In addition, Washington prohibits any person from carrying, transporting, or conveying any loaded firearm in or upon any “non-highway vehicle” (ATV, dirt bike, etc.) except by permit from the director of fish and wildlife.

Who Is Not Allowed to Carry a Firearm?

Recall that Washington state law prohibits firearms possession for certain people, depending on their criminal history. Anyone who has been convicted of the following cannot carry a firearm:

  • a “serious offense”;
  • any felony;
  • fourth degree domestic assault;
  • coercion in a domestic violence case;
  • stalking in a domestic violence case;
  • reckless endangerment in a domestic violence case;
  • criminal trespass in the first degree;
  • violation of a court order in a domestic violence case.

Washington law also prohibits firearm possession if the person:

  • has been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment;
  • is under 18 years of age (except under certain circumstances); or
  • is out of custody while awaiting a trial, appeal, or sentencing for a “serious offense.”

Be aware that Washington law defines a “serious offense” as including but not limited to:

  • any crime of violence;
  • child molestation in the second degree;
  • leading organized crime;
  • promoting prostitution in the first degree;
  • third degree rape;
  • drive-by shooting;
  • vehicular assault by a person under the influence;
  • vehicular homicide by a person under the influence; and
  • any other felony with a deadly weapon.

Penalties and Sentencing

The unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree is a class B felony in Washington that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $20,000, and the unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

A defendant can be convicted of unlaw firearm possession provided that they own a firearm or have one in their possession or control, and one of the following is true:

  • the defendant had been previously convicted of a certain felony, or pled not guilty to the same by reason of insanity; or
  • the defendant owned or possessed the firearm during any period of time that they were subject to a court order.

As mentioned earlier, certain felonies referred to in this offense includeassault in the fourth degree, coercion, stalking, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass in the first degree.

Contact Hester Law Group for Legal Guidance

If you have been accused of unlawful possession of firearms, whether in a motor vehicle or based on an implication of your criminal history, contact Hester Law Group immediately for legal representation. Firearm possession in Washington is legal with the proper permits. An experienced attorney can assess the facts of your situation to best determine your next legal steps in your potential gun possession charge.

Contact our firm at Hester Law Group for a free consultation today.