Possession of a Firearm While Under the Influence
Oklahoma recently passed constitutional carry, making it legal to carry a firearm without a concealed carry permit. Previously, individuals wanting to carry a firearm needed a special permit. Now, Oklahomans can carry a firearm without a special permit. This has led to an increase in people carrying a firearm, without learning when that firearm can get them into legal trouble. Regardless of your position on this law, many people are facing criminal charges due to confusion over when they can legally carry their firearm and when it becomes criminal.
In Oklahoma, it is illegal to carry a firearm under the influence of alcohol. This means, you cannot carry a gun once you have been drinking - even if it has been only one drink. Likewise, you cannot carry a firearm into a bar. Constitutional carry has led many people to believe this law is no longer enforced, but that is not the case. Here, we discuss some common situations you may find yourself in, and when you are breaking the law by having possession of a firearm.
One Common Situation: Carrying a Firearm in Your Car
Many people carry a gun in their car. This is entirely legal in Oklahoma, but can cause issues if you choose to have an alcoholic drink and then drive home. Unlike a DUI, there is no legal amount of blood alcohol content when carrying a firearm. This means any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system is enough to constitute impairment when in possession of a firearm.
“Possession” of the firearm is also a loose term. It doesn’t mean the gun must be physically on your body. If the firearm is in your vicinity—such as in the center console of your car—that is enough to constitute possession.
We are all human, and accidents happen. For example, let’s say you’ve had a drink at dinner and are driving home with a gun in your center console.
When an officer pulls you over for a suspected DUI, tell them up front that you have a firearm in the vehicle. This prevents you from being charged with obstruction, even though it may result in the charge of possession of a firearm under the influence. Your disclosure keeps both you and the officer safe.
Even if you don’t tell the officer about the gun, they will most likely find it. Once you are found to be intoxicated, the officer doesn’t leave your car on the side of the road or let you drive home.
They will conduct an inventory of your car and have it towed. During this inventory, officers write down everything within your vehicle prior to it being towed to ensure nothing is stolen. It is almost inevitable they will find your firearm at this point. If you failed to tell them about the existence of your firearm, you will not only have the possession of a firearm charge, but also an obstruction charge, all on top of your DUI charge.
Punishment for Possession of a Firearm While Under the Influence
If you are charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence, you face a minimum of 10 days in jail and a maximum of 6 months in jail. This is in addition to any other charges (for example, if you are charged with a DUI and possession of a firearm under the influence, you face up to a year for the DUI and up to 6 months for the firearm charge).
Just like with other types of charges, the State can offer you probation as part of a plea deal. Recently, many district attorneys have taken the stance “gun crime does time.” Which means any crime involving a gun will be accompanied by jail time. This is completely at the discretion of the prosecutor.
Having a Beer While Hunting
Hunting is a popular pastime in Oklahoma. If you are hunting with your friends and have a beer, you are in violation of the law—not only while hunting, but also on the drive home. While you won’t typically find officers out on foot looking for a hunter with a beer can, it is technically a violation of the law, and something to be mindful of.
Drinking at Home with a Firearm in the House
The law does notmake a distinction that it is only a violation to possess a firearm under the influence while in public. While we have never seen a case where someone is charged by having a firearm in their home while they are intoxicated, it may be a violation.
Taking Prescription Medicine
Lawfully obtained prescription medicine can be a violation of this law “if the aftereffects of such consumption affect mental, emotional, or physical processes to a degree that would result in abnormal behavior.”This definition is vague, and doesn’t provide a hard and fast rule about what is and is not allowed. It seems reasonable to believe possession of a firearm while under the influence of blood pressure medication is perfectly legal. However, while under the influence of lawfully obtained anxiety medications like Xanax, you most likely cannot possess a firearm.
The Bottom Line
Oklahoma’s possession of a firearm while under the influence statute provides vague definitions and broad language that can lead to a violation, even if you believe your behavior is perfectly legal. Oklahoma’s constitutional carry has only broadened these horizons, and leads to good people receiving criminal charges for something they thought was completely legal. If you have had even a sip of alcohol, it is best to make sure you are not around a firearm.