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Colorado Felony & Muzzleloaders: Possession Likely Illegal (2024 Guide)

In Colorado, the laws regarding firearm ownership by felons are stringent. Generally, individuals convicted of a felony are prohibited from possessing firearms under both federal and state laws. However, muzzleloaders fall into a different category than typical firearms.
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What is a Muzzleloader?

According to Hunter Ed, the term “muzzleloader” refers to a diverse group of firearms that are loaded from the front end, or muzzle, of the barrel. This category includes a range of firearms from revolvers and single-shot pistols to rifles and shotguns [1].

When a muzzleloader is fired, the propellant ignites, creating expanding gases that propel the projectile through the barrel. The process is managed by what’s known as the lock, the ignition system of the muzzleloader, which in more contemporary firearms has been replaced by mechanisms known as actions.

The earliest muzzleloaders, the matchlock and wheel lock, are generally considered collectibles rather than practical firearms for shoots or hunting. Three of the most popular muzzleloading firearms in use are the in-line, percussion lock (or caplock), and flintlock rifles – Hunter Ed

While muzzleloaders designed for shooting are predominantly rifles, there are also smooth-bored versions, which include shotguns. These shotguns, historically referred to as fowlers or muskets, represent an important part of muzzleloading heritage.

Is a Felon Allowed to Own a Muzzleloader in Colorado?

According to SCLG, in Colorado, convicted felons may be prosecuted for simply owning a muzzleloader, even if they never actively use it or take it hunting [2].

This scenario is covered under the concept of “constructive possession,” which implies that ownership equates to control over the item, despite the owner not physically handling it.

If a convicted felon is found in possession of a weapon, they could be charged with a class 5 felony under Colorado law. The potential penalties for this level of felony include:

  • 1 to 3 years in Colorado State Prison, and/or
  • Fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000,
  • Followed by a mandatory two-year parole period.

Probation is not available if the defendant used – or threatened the use of – the firearm in the commission of another crime – SCLG

This underscores the seriousness with which weapon possession by previous offenders is treated in Colorado, emphasizing strict legal consequences to deter such offenses.

Who is a “Previous Offender” Under Colorado Law?

According to Anaya & Chadderdon P.C., Individuals under the age of majority and adults with past felony convictions, including attempts and conspiracy to commit felonies, are generally classified as “previous offenders” under laws pertaining to possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO) [3].

Here, “convicted” can include a guilty verdict from a jury, a guilty plea from a defendant, and a no-contest plea that defers judgment in the case. In other words, it’s not necessary for a jury or judge to convict a defendant in order for that individual to be considered a “previous offender” for the purposes of POWPO charges – Anaya & Chadderdon P.C.

This broad definition ensures that those with a substantive criminal history involving felonies are subject to the specific regulations governing weapon possession.

How Does Colorado Law Define “Possession of a Weapon”?

According to CRS 18-12-108, possession can refer to direct control of a weapon, as in having it in hand or on one’s person. It can also mean having the intent and ability to control a weapon, even if the weapon is not being physically carried at the time.

In the context of charges for possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO), the definition of “weapon” is broad and can lead to these charges for a variety of armaments, including but not limited to:

  • Handguns, including revolvers and pistols,
  • Rifles and shotguns,
  • Automatic weapons,
  • Ballistic knives,
  • Devices capable of launching explosives.

The scope also extends to firearms that are non-operational and certain firearm accessories like silencers. Additionally, POWPO charges can apply to previous offenders who possess, carry, or use any deadly weapons, such as bludgeoning instruments that could inflict serious harm.

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References:

1. https://www.hunter-ed.com/muzzleloader/studyGuide/
2. https://www.shouselaw.com/co/blog/felony/can-a-felon-own-a-muzzleloader-in-colorado/
3. https://www.cospringslawfirm.com/weapons-charges/powpo/

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