Juvenile Gun Charges

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedDec 8, 2021
4 minute read

Colorado law does not allow minors – meaning anyone under the age of 18 – to possess a handgun. Juvenile gun charges are serious, for both minors and adults.

Having a criminal record, particularly a felony record, can negatively affect your child’s future. If your child has been charged with illegally possessing a handgun, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Child’s Gun Charge

Our Criminal Defense Team is experienced in handling juvenile cases. Whether it is developing a solid defense or negotiating a reduction in charges, hiring a criminal defense attorney improves your or your child’s chances for a better outcome. Call 303-688-0944 or click here to set up a case assessment with one of our zealous criminal defense lawyers about juvenile gun charges.

The Charges for Minors Who Illegally Possess a Handgun

It is a serious offense for a minor in Colorado to illegally possess a handgun. If a juvenile is caught with a handgun they are not allowed to have, they can be charged with a crime. C.R.S. § 18-12-108.5

If it’s their first offense, Colorado law calls for the minor to be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. However, the charges get more serious for subsequent offenses. If your child gets caught with a gun for a second time, they can be charged with a class 5 felony.

A felony is a serious charge for anyone to have on their record, let alone a minor.

When Minors May Have a Gun

Now, there are instances in which a minor can legally possess a handgun. C.R.S. § 18-12-108.5(2)(a)

For instance, if your child has signed up for a firearm safety course, they can legally be in possession of a handgun. Minors can also participate in organized shooting competitions. Additionally, they can hunt with a handgun if they have a valid hunting license.

Other legal exceptions include:
  • attending a hunter’s safety course
  • participating in target practice at an established gun range
  • traveling with an unloaded handgun to and from safety courses, competitions, hunting, and target practice
  • being on a parent’s or legal guardian’s property and have permission to use a handgun
  • exercising the right to self-defense against an intruder at their own residence if parent or guardian has provided permission

What Happens if Your Kid is Arrested for Having a Handgun

A law enforcement officer can take your child into temporary custody without a court order if there are reasonable grounds to believe that your juvenile has committed a delinquent act. C.R.S. § 19-2-502(1)

Certainly, a juvenile in possession of a handgun outside the legal exceptions would be reason enough for police to believe the minor has violated the law.

What Happens if Your Child is Detained by Police

Police are required to notify you if your child is arrested. Additionally, state law requires that your child has a right to a hearing within 48 hours of being detained to determine whether he or she will be released or continue to be detained. Hearings are not held on weekends or legal holidays.

In addition to notifying you of your child’s detention, police are also required to promptly “notify the court, the district attorney, and the local office of the state public defender” that a minor has been taken into custody. C.R.S. § 19-2-508(1)

Civilian Adults are Allowed to Detain Minors in Certain Circumstances

Law enforcement officers are not the only people who can detain your child, according to state law. It’s good for parents and guardians to know that any adult can temporarily detain a minor if she or he has committed or is in the midst of committing a delinquent act in the presence of that adult.

If this occurs, that adult must notify law enforcement that they are holding your child for allegedly committing a delinquent act. Colorado law states that the adult must call the police or sheriff’s department “without unnecessary delay” to let deputies know they have your child. Sheriff’s deputies are instructed to handle the situation from there. C.R.S. § 19-2-502(4)

Detention for Offenses Unrelated to Juvenile Gun Charges

If your child is being held on a warrant for violating a court order on what the law calls a status offense – violating curfew, truancy, running away, underage drinking, etc. – the law states the court must hold the detention hearing with 24 hours of your kid being detained.

Again, that excludes Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. That means your kid could be waiting over the weekend until their hearing.

What Happens at a Juvenile Detention Hearing

The purpose of the detention hearing is to decide whether your child will stay in custody or, if they are to be released, what the conditions of their release will be. C.R.S. § 19-2-508 (III)

Ten to Twelve Year Olds in Custody

If your child is between the ages of 10 and 12, a court is generally not allowed to keep them in custody. Now, there is an exception. If the minor was arrested for a felony or a weapons charge or has previously been determined to have committed a felony or a weapons charge the court may hold them in custody. C.R.S. § 19-2-508(2)(V)

Your Child Has a Right to a Lawyer

At their detention hearing, a juvenile must be represented by a lawyer. You can retain a lawyer for your minor, but, if not, the court will appoint a public defender. C.R.S. § 19-2-508(2)

What Happens if You Give a Minor a Handgun

It is against the law in Colorado for an adult to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly give a minor a handgun or allow them to possess one. Doing so is a class 4 felony.

Additionally, the law extends beyond just giving a handgun to a minor. Parents and other adults can be held accountable if a minor takes a gun from their property. Therefore, you must make a reasonable effort to prevent a minor from having a handgun. That, too, is a class 4 felony. C.R.S. § 18-12-108.7

As of July 1, 2020, prison sentences for class 4 felonies are between two and six years. A three-year parole period is also mandatory for a class 4 felony. C.R.S. § 18-1.3-401 (V.5)(A)

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney About Juvenile Gun Charges

If your family is facing juvenile gun charges or other serious delinquent violations, set up a meeting to talk with one of our criminal defense attorneys. During the initial case assessment, you and an attorney will discuss the charges, the facts of the case, potential legal options, the cost of defense, and more. Call 303-688-0944 to set up the appointment or click here.

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