Philadelphia Weapons Lawyer
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. But federal, state, and municipal governments can place limits on this right in the interest of public health and safety. In Pennsylvania, there are several important regulations that apply to the use and ownership of firearms. Violating these laws can result in severe repercussions. For this reason, you should hire a skilled and experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with a firearm or weapons violation. Your lawyer will be able to analyze the prosecutor’s evidence and mount an effective defense to the charges. In addition, your weapons charge defense attorney will help ensure that your rights are respected as you confront the criminal justice system.
Gun Crimes in Pennsylvania
In an effort to curb gun violence, Pennsylvania has strict laws targeting the unlawful use and possession of firearms. Pennsylvania is one of the most dangerous states in the nation in terms of gun violence, with almost 14,000 people killed with a gun between 2005 and 2014. Strikingly, Pennsylvania is one of 21 states where its citizens are more likely to die from a firearm than in a car accident.
The misuse of firearms in Pennsylvania even affects its neighbors. In 2009 for example, authorities recovered 1,777 guns that had been purchased in Pennsylvania and used to commit crimes in other states. The commonwealth is consistently one of the top ten interstate crime gun suppliers in the nation.
If you get charged with committing a firearms violation, the prosecutor will vigorously pursue your conviction. Even if you are a law abiding or well-intentioned citizen, the authorities will view you as part of the gun crime problem in the Commonwealth. Ignorance of the law is no defense to criminal charges, so every responsible gun owner should learn about Pennsylvania’s tough stance on guns.
Pennsylvania Firearms and Weapons Charges Overview
At Fienman defense, we can help you defend against any of the following categories of firearms or weapons charges:
- Possessing criminal instruments — You could face up to five years imprisonment for using a dangerous weapon or body armor with criminal intent. Even if the gun is unloaded, or the weapon you have is a fake, you can be charged because other people will perceive the weapons as operable.
- Possession of a firearm prohibited — If you carry a gun in defiance of a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, you will face first-degree misdemeanor charges. If you’ve been convicted of certain felonies, dishonorably discharged form the army, or you’re an undocumented immigrant, you are banned from owning firearms. If you get caught, you may get charged with a felony. Related reading: False statements on firearm purchase application.
- Carrying a firearm without a license — With a few exceptions, it’s a felony to carry a weapon in your vehicle or concealed on your person outside of your home or place of business unless you have a valid concealed carry license.
- Making repairs to or selling an offensive weapon — You could get a five year prison sentence for using, owning, repairing, or transferring offensive weapons such as bombs, grenades, machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, switchblades or other dangerous weapons that serve no common lawful purpose.
- Possession of a firearm with an altered or obliterated number — With the exception of some antiques, all firearms must have a serial number. The penalty for this first-degree misdemeanor can be as high as five years in prison.
- Possession of a weapon on school property — If you get caught with a gun or other dangerous weapon on a primary or secondary school property, you may get charged with a second-degree felony entailing a ten-year prison sentence.
Defending Against Pennsylvania Firearms Charges
The defense of firearms and illegal weapons charges can be difficult because these offenses—with the exception of possessing criminal instruments—do not involve the issue of criminal intent. Usually, a prosecutor needs to prove that you acted with criminal intent, also known as mens rea. But with most weapons charges, the mere possession of the weapon under certain circumstances is enough for the charges to stick.
Fortunately, there are other ways to fend off these charges. Many charges result from the police making a traffic stop and discovering an illegal weapon. In other cases, the police enter a home to conduct a search or apprehend a suspect for one crime, but also find evidence of a weapons violation. Your lawyer will need to carefully review the police’s conduct to determine whether they violated your constitutional rights in finding the incriminating weapon.
A prosecutor cannot use evidence in the case against you if it was obtained in violation of your rights. Some examples of illegals searches and seizures of weapons include:
- The authorities enter your home without a search warrant, your consent, or qualifying emergency circumstances and find an illegal gun
- The police find an illegal gun in your closet when entering your home to execute a search warrant—the police can only collect evidence in plan sight
- The police cannot pull your car over without having reason to believe you are doing something illegal
- Once they pull you over, the police cannot search your car unless you give them consent or they have probable cause that you are hiding something illegal
When the bulk of the prosecutor’s case is built on such illegal evidence, your lawyer can request the court to dismiss the charges against you. At Fienman Defense, we have significant experience challenging the prosecution’s evidence based on constitutional violations. If you’ve been charged with a Pennsylvania firearms violation, call us today at (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
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Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to show that that the charges should be dismissed. If the prosecution has a strong case we can negotiate to lower your charges and potential sentence. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.