Virginians can carry stun guns and Tasers without a permit, unless they've been convicted of certain crimes. However, there are a few places where stun guns aren't allowed. And you can be charged with a crime for using a stun gun as an offensive weapon. Read on for details.
Virginia law uses the term “stun weapon” to refer to any device designed to temporarily incapacitate a person with an electrical charge or an audible, optical or electromagnetic output (Va. Code § 18.2-308.1 (2019)). This definition would include both stun guns and Tasers, even though they're different. Stun guns must touch the target to deliver a shock, while Tasers (a brand name that has become the popular term for these devices) work from a distance by shooting small darts attached to wires that transmit the electrical current.
It's a crime in Virginia to possess or carry a stun weapon outside of your own home or property if you were convicted of a felony or certain serious juvenile offenses when you were at least 14 years old. If you've had your civil rights restored, however, you can apply for a “restoration order” that will give you back the right to have a stun gun.
The state also prohibits anyone from carrying a stun weapon in certain places:
(Va. Code §§ 18.2-287.01, 18.2-283.1, 18.2-308.1, 18.2-308.1 (2019).)
You could be charged with a crime in Virginia for using a stun gun offensively. You're allowed to use force to defend yourself or someone else, but only when it's necessary and when you have a reasonable fear of immediate death or serious harm.
Stun guns might be considered dangerous weapons for purposes of certain crimes, depending on the circumstances. For instance, it's considered aggravated sexual battery if the defendant used or threatened to use a dangerous weapon to force or intimidate the victim. In a case where the victim sustained injuries after the defendant “tased” her three times, a Virginia court found that the stun gun qualified as a dangerous weapon under the law. (Cabral v. Commonwealth, 815 S.E.2d 805 (Va. Ct. App. 2018).)
Look Out for Legal Changes
Because states can change their laws at any time, it's always a good idea to check the current statute. You can use this search tool to find and read the current Virginia codes.
There may be local regulations on stun guns and Tasers that are stricter than state law. If you have questions about your legal right to own or carry one of these weapons where you live, you may want to check with your local law enforcement agency or a local criminal defense lawyer. If you're facing charges for a crime that involved the use of a stun gun or Taser, you should strongly consider consulting with a qualified criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.