Is it possible to have a domestic abuse charge with no conviction removed from a federal record?

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Is it possible to have a domestic abuse charge with no conviction removed from a federal record?

Asked on March 9, 2014 under Criminal Law, Illinois


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As described below, federal law prohibits abusers who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and abusers subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. The federal laws intended to prevent access to firearms by domestic abusers have significant limitations, however, and some states have adopted broader laws to address these problems.

1.  Family and Dating Partner Violence:  Domestic violence affects persons in relationships that fall outside the protections of federal law.  For example, dating partners are not within the federal prohibitions unless the partners are/were cohabitating as spouses or have a child in common.  The risk of domestic violence being committed by a dating partner is well-documented.  In 2008, individuals killed by current dating partners made up almost half of all spouse and current dating partner homicides.  A study of applicants for domestic violence restraining orders in Los Angeles found that the most common relationship between the victim and abuser was a dating relationship, and applications for protective orders were more likely to mention firearms when the parties had not lived together and were not married.

The current federal prohibitions also do not address violence against family members other than a child or intimate partner, such as an abused sibling or parent. According to data from the U.S Department of Justice, the proportion of family homicides that involve children killing their parents has been increasing, rising steadily from 9.7% of all family homicides in 1980 to 13% in 2008.

2.  Removal of Firearms:  The federal prohibitions on firearm possession by domestic abusers do not ensure that guns that are already in the possession of an abuser are removed. A March 2013 investigation by the New York Times found that more than 50 people in Washington State were arrested on gun charges in 2011 while subject to protective orders, and that, over a three-year period, more than 30 people in Minnesota were convicted of an assault with a dangerous weapon while subject to protective orders. A survey of domestic abusers enrolled in Massachusetts batterer intervention programs between 2002 and 2005 found that perpetrators who continued to possess firearms after they were prohibited from doing so by federal law were more likely to attempt homicide or threaten their partners with guns than domestic violence perpetrators who had relinquished their firearms. Studies have also identified numerous instances of individuals killed by domestic abusers using firearms even after those abusers had become prohibited from possessing guns.

3.  Reporting of Abusers: In order for background checks to prevent abusers from obtaining guns, states must report abusers who fall within prohibited categories to the proper databases. Identifying the abusers to be reported involves a series of complex legal issues that many states have not yet addressed. As a result, many states do not comprehensively enter domestic violence protective order and offender information into the proper databases.

4.  Background Checks: The lack of a requirement for a federal background check before every sale of a gun, including sales by unlicensed, private sellers, enables many domestic abusers to obtain the firearms they use against their victims.  In states that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.

Answer: I suggest that you consult with a criminal defense attorney in your locality for help. One can be found on If you want to seal the file in federal court where you were not convicted, that is a possibilty.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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