Many people in Pennsylvania own a gun for recreational purposes, hunting, or home protection. However, having a gun in the wrong place at the wrong time could lead to firearm charges. State and federal firearm charges carry heavy criminal penalties and could lead to a ban on future gun ownership. Before pleading guilty to criminal gun charges, make sure you understand your rights.
Pennsylvania Gun Crimes
Certain individuals are not permitted to own or possess a firearm in Pennsylvania, known as “prohibited persons.” This includes:
- Individuals who have been convicted of drug offenses punishable by more than 2 years in prison;
- Individuals who have been convicted of multiple DUIs (3 or more within a 5-year period);
- Individuals convicted of certain violent crimes;
- Aliens unlawfully present in the United States;
- Individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution; or
- Individuals subject to an active protective order from abuse (restraining order).
Concealed Weapon Charges
While most people in Pennsylvania are permitted to open carry a gun without a license, in order to carry a concealed weapon, you have to have a License to Carry Firearms (LTCF) permit.
Any person who carries a concealed weapon, except in his place of abode or fixed place of business, without a valid license commits a third-degree felony. The penalties for a 3rd degree felony in Pennsylvania include from 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Possession of a Firearm During a Burglary or Robbery
If a defendant is charged with burglary or robbery, the use or possession of a firearm can result in increased penalties. Use of a deadly weapon, including any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, results in a sentencing enhancement. A conviction for robbery or burglary may have a higher mandatory minimum and maximum prison sentence if the defendant possessed a firearm at the time.
The court shall consider the deadly weapon enhancement (DWE)/Possessed Matrix (§ 303.17(a)) when the defendant possessed a firearm during the commission of a crime. The court shall consider a DWE/Used Matrix (§ 303.17(b)) if a firearm was used during the commission of a crime in a way that threatened or injured another individual.
Federal Firearms Crimes
Certain gun crimes may be violations of federal criminal laws. The use of a gun in connection with drug trafficking or a crime of violence is a federal offense. Even if the defendant does not shoot the gun, threatening someone with a firearm can result in federal gun charges under 18 U.S.C. § 924 (c).
A conviction for a gun crime can carry serious penalties that may affect your future even after serving your sentence. Before you plead guilty to a weapons charge make sure you understand your options and your rights. Criminal defense attorney David J. Cohen is devoted to representing the people of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas. Contact the David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC today for a consultation.