Wisconsin's Domestic Abuse Enhancer and the Federal Ban on Firearms for Those Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence - related but not coextensive

Misdemeanor convictions can have serious, life-long consequences, including loss of firearm rights!

Wisconsin has three classifications for law violations.

Domestic Abuse under Wisconsin Law

For most people, the term "domestic abuse" means spousal abuse, i.e. "wife beating." Wisconsin's definition is far broader. For a crime to be considered one of "domestic abuse" in Wisconsin:

  1. The crime must be one of those specified in Sec. 973.055 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Those crimes include murder and battery, but also disorderly conduct and misuse of a telephone.
  2. No one has to be injured (although injury can be a part of such a crime).
  3. There is no requirement for the surcharge that there be use or attempted use of physical force (although battery does require this).
  4. There is no requirement that the crime involve the use of a deadly weapon.
  5. The people involved may be adult siblings
  6. The people involved may be adult child and parent
  7. The crime must involve at least two people
  8. Those two people must have lived in the same household, or
  9. Those two people must have had a dating relationship, or
  10. Those two people must have a child together

This interacts with various other laws such that a misdemeanor conviction can:

  1. Lead to deportation and/or exclusion from admission to the country for non-citizens whether or not legally in the country.
  2. Lead to a lifetime ban on firearms possession. This page is about that consequence.

Further, in Wisconsin, the domestic abuse enhancer can apply to any of the types of law violations listed: Felonies, misdemeanors, and (non-criminal) ordinances. This enhancer is only applied when both the nature of the offense and the relationship between the parties is brought to the attention of the court, usually in the charging document.

The Wisconsin criteria are set forth in Sec. 973.055 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Abuse - The Lautenberg Amendment

A Federal law imposes a lifetime gun possession ban on people convicted of what is labeled a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." That law is explained to US Attorneys in this fact sheet: Criminal Resource Manual on Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Violence. Specifically:

  1. It only applies to misdemeanor crimes. Ordinance violations in Wisconsin are not crimes. There is already a firearms restriction for those convicted of felonies.
  2. No specific crimes are listed because this covers all states.
  3. No one has to have been injured but the charged misdemeanor must have, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.
  4. Adult siblings are not covered.
  5. A crime committed by an adult child against a parent is not covered.
  6. The crime must involve two people.
  7. A crime committed by one roommate against another is not covered, unless they were involved in a sexual or romantic relationship.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided in the case of Doubek v. Kaul 2022-WI-35 that, in Wisconsin, Disorderly Conduct is not crime of Domestic Violence because violence is not a required element of the crime. "Physical force" under the Lautenberg Amendment is defined as any offensive touching. United States v. Castleman 572 U.S. 157 (2014). Neither Disorderly Conduct nor Criminal Damage to Property, which are often charged as domestic abuse misdemeanors in Wisconsin, have an element of physical force under this definition.

It is also possible that if the person had been convicted without a lawyer, that this would not apply. The Lautenberg Amendment requires that any waiver of the right to counsel be made after a full on-the-record discussion of the implications of such a waiver. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Bruen likely did not change the effects of the Lautenberg Amendment.


Although compared to a Felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction is "minor," in the life of a person, especially one without a prior criminal conviction, a conviction for a misdemeanor can be devastating. If the charge is one that of the type specified under the Lautenberg Amendent one of those collateral consequences will be permanent loss of firearms rights throughout the United States. The judge is not required to warn a defendant of this potential consequence. Anyone facing such a charge needs competent, experienced representation.

See also: Gun Rights and Domestic Violence Crimes in Wisconsin - Firearms Rights

It's Only a Misdemeanor - Collateral Consequences of Misdemeanor Convictions

Wis. Dept. of Justice on Concealed Carry


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Attorney at Law Scales of Justice - copyright 1995 - Madison Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer (attorney) Charles Kenyon
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