The two primary modifications that Culpeper gun lawyers run across of firearms that are illegal are, number one, shortening the length of the barrel of a gun, most often this relates to a shotgun, which can be illegal. There is a specific statute that says a shotgun barrel cannot be reduced any shorter than a certain length.
This is to avoid people being able to possess or conceal what is commonly referred to as a sawed-off shotgun. This is because it is a powerful weapon and they do not want a person to be able to conceal it within their clothing. The other one that can be potentially illegal is a suppressor; sometimes these are referred to as silencers.
They do not truly silence the weapon but they do make it softer, in some cases, this is a modification that can be illegal. Another important one is changing the firing mechanism on the weapon, there are many weapons available that are semi-automatic but then an individual can purchase a kit, which will allow them to fairly easily convert it to a fully automatic weapon. There are no legal fully automatic weapons in the state of Virginia or under federal law. So, making that kind of modification or conversion is also illegal.
This falls under the same category as increase ammunition capacity. Increased ammunition capacity is not truly considered a modification but there are limits on clip size. For example, under state law and under federal law, there are clips that will hold a certain amount of ammunition, which are legal to possess, but once a person reaches a certain threshold we are talking about clips that hold huge amounts of ammunitions. There are prohibitions against attaching one of those to a firearm, which is made to hold the clip.
Illegal firearm modifications are sometimes treated as felonies and they are sometimes treated as misdemeanors. It is difficult to comment generally on what the penalty will be in a particular case, it depends on the severity of the facts. But these are serious charges in every case, and so there is always the potential for there to be serious repercussions including jail, fines, and the loss of the ability to keep or possess a firearm.
The main one is forcing the government to prove that modification is actually illegal. Sometimes it is easy to look at the modification and on the part of law enforcement make an assumption that it is a modification of the kind that it is illegal. However, the law contains a specific definition of what those modifications must look like or have to be in order to be illegal. Looking closely at those definitions and making sure that the weapon in question has been modified and precisely that way can sometimes provide a defense of the case.
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