Utah is relatively loose with its gun possession laws. In an effort to protect your Second Amendment rights, it is legal for most Utahans to carry a firearm, but a permit may be required to carry a concealed firearm. Still, Utah law does restrict who can have a gun, whether it may be loaded or not, and where firearms may be possessed. Some gun possession crimes punish you for possessing a firearm without a license. Others punish people for having a gun based on who they are or their criminal history.
Utah’s firearms laws are uniform throughout the state, so if you were arrested anywhere in Utah for a gun possession crime, our Salt Lake City gun possession defense attorney Darwin Overson may be able to help. For a free consultation on your firearms charges, call today at (801) 895-3143.
Basic Gun Possession Crimes in Utah
To legally possess a gun in Utah, you do not necessarily need a license. It is legal to open carry an unloaded gun, legal to carry a loaded gun in your car or with a conceal carry permit, and legal to protect your home or person from deadly force with a gun. However, there are times when it is illegal to possess a gun.
Under Utah Code § 76-10-504, it is illegal to carry a concealed gun without a conceal carry permit. While open carry is allowed for an unloaded firearm, you cannot have a gun concealed on your person without a permit. If the gun is unloaded, this is a class B misdemeanor. If the gun is loaded, the crime is upgraded to a class A misdemeanor. However, it is usually okay to have a loaded gun in your own home, a business you own, your car, or a friend’s car (if you have their permission).
It is illegal to possess a gun in some vehicles, on a public street, or in an area that posts signs that firearms are prohibited. This is a class B misdemeanor under Utah Code § 76-10-505, but it only applies to loaded firearms. While you may carry a gun in your car or someone else’s car (with their permission), you cannot otherwise carry a loaded gun into a vehicle without the owner’s permission. That means it is illegal to carry a gun onto a bus or train without a conceal carry permit as well. This also makes it a crime to carry a loaded gun on a public street or in a prohibited area. While open carry is legal, the gun must be unloaded.
Under Utah law, there are many situations where you may only carry a gun if it is unloaded. Under § 76-10-502, a gun is considered loaded under these circumstances:
- For a pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, or other gun: it is loaded if there is an un-fired cartridge/shell/other projectile in the firing position.
- For a muzzle-loaded firearm: it is loaded when there is powder and a projectile in a barrel or cylinder, and the cap is primed.
This means that any chambered fire-arm is considered “loaded.” For a gun to safely be considered unloaded, it needs to be at least two steps from firing. Pulling the trigger counts as one step, so if the weapon must be charged or cocked, that should count as a second step for the weapon to be considered “unloaded.” This means that a pistol with a full magazine, but no round in the chamber, should be safely “unloaded.” This may help defeat charges of open carrying a loaded weapon or downgrade conceal carry violations by proving the weapon was “unloaded.”
It is also illegal to carry a gun with criminal intent. Even though it may be legal to carry a weapon, § 76-10-507 makes it illegal to carry a gun with the intent to use it in a crime. This is a class A misdemeanor.
Many states have laws specifically banning sawed-off shotguns and fully-automatic rifles at any time. Utah does not have any general ban on these weapons, but the same rules for unloaded open carry and no concealed carry still apply.
Utah Gun Possession Crimes for Restricted Persons
Sometimes, the law restricts which people can have guns. Some of these restrictions are temporary, but some continue for years.
First, it is illegal to carry a gun while you are drunk. This is a simple safety hazard, and is illegal under § 76-10-528. Specifically, you cannot carry a gun while you are “under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance,” and the law references the drunk driving statute for the appropriate levels of drunkenness. This means that you cannot have a gun on you if you could not safely operate a vehicle because of drugs or alcohol, or if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over .08%. (Note that after 12/30/2018, the legal limit drops to .05%, and would apply to this law as well.) It is not a defense tot his crime to claim you were hunting at the time, nor to claim that you had a concealed carry permit. This is a class B misdemeanor.
It is also illegal to carry a gun if you are under 18 years old. This is a crime under § 76-10-509.4. This is a class B misdemeanor for a first offense, and a class A misdemeanor for any additional offense.
Lastly, it is illegal for certain classes of people to have a gun in Utah. Utah Code § 76-10-503 breaks this down into two classes of “restricted persons,” known as Category I and Category II. Many of these definitions of groups overlap and may be confusing, so talk to an attorney if you think you may fit in one of these restricted groups. This statute prevents the following people from carrying a gun:
Category I Restricted Persons
- Anyone convicted of a violent felony
- Anyone on probation or parole for a felony
- Anyone on parole
- Any juvenile adjudicated delinquent (convicted) for a violent felony in the last 10 years
- Anyone in the US illegally
- Anyone on probation for a drug possession crime
Category II Restricted Persons
- Anyone convicted of any felony (may be a nonviolent felony)
- Any juvenile adjudicated delinquent (convicted) for any felony in the last 7 years
- Anyone who uses an illegal drug
- Anyone who also possesses a Schedule I or II drug (e.g. cocaine, heroin, marijuana)
- Anyone who was found insane during a felony hearing
- Anyone who was found mentally incompetent during a felony hearing
- Anyone the Brady Act disqualifies as “mentally defective,” or who has been committed to a mental institution
- Anyone dishonorably discharged from the military
- Anyone who renounced their US citizenship
- Anyone with a domestic violence protective order against them (only if there was a hearing and notice – this should not apply for temporary or emergency, ex-parte petitions)
- Anyone convicted of assault/aggravated assault or attempted assault/aggravated assault against a spouse, parent, guardian, person they share children with, or someone who lives with any of those people
These classes are broad-reaching and aim to keep guns out of the hands of people the public might see as “dangerous.” Regardless of whether you know you belong to this class or not, you may still be convicted for violating the law. This means you should always talk to an attorney about your legal ability to own or carry a gun before you are arrested or charged with a gun possession crime.
These crimes range from class A misdemeanors to second degree felonies, depending on your Category and what type of gun you possessed.
Penalties for Gun Possession Crimes in Utah
These gun possession crimes listed above range from class B misdemeanors to second degree felonies. In Utah, all misdemeanors are punished by a maximum of one year in jail, and all felonies have a potential of more than one year in prison. More specifically, these classes of crime have the following penalties, in order of increasing seriousness:
Class B Misdemeanors:
Class B misdemeanors are punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
Class A Misdemeanors:
Class A misdemeanors are punished by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
Third Degree Felonies:
Third degree felonies are punished by zero to 5 years in prison and fines up to $5,000. Since this is a felony, a conviction will also put you into one of the restricted persons categories above and prevent you from legally possessing a gun.
Second Degree Felonies:
Second degree felonies are punished by at least one year in prison, up to 15 years, and fines of up to $10,000. Since this is also a felony, you will not be able to possess a gun anymore after a conviction.
Talk to an attorney to understand the full range of penalties you may experience for a crime in Utah.
Utah Gun Possession Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one was arrested and charged with a crime for having a gun in Utah, talk to our Salt Lake City gun possession lawyer today. Darwin Overson of Overson and Sheen defends people accused of gun crimes throughout the Salt Lake City area. Call today for a free consultation on your gun possession charges, or for advice on whether or not you can legally possess a gun in Utah. Our number is (801) 895-3143.