Case Studies: Firearms/Weapons Charges

Hunting Enthusiast Beats State Charges of Possessing an Illegal Weapon

A hunting enthusiast retained the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to defend charges that our client had possession of an illegal weapon. The weapon in question was an old shotgun, the barrel of which our client had attempted to repair and then replace. Our client was not a weapons expert nor a skilled machinist or metalworker. When our client was unable to repair or replace the shotgun's barrel, our client cut off most of the defective barrel, intending to use the shortened shotgun as a sidearm to kill in self-defense any animal that the hunter had wounded but that the hunter mistakenly believed was dead. Our client subsequently listed the shotgun for sale after thinking better of his idea and realizing that he could not load and shoot the shotgun any longer in the manner he had modified and damaged it. He intended to tell any buyer that the shotgun was good for appearances only, not for use. State firearms officials notified prosecutors of our client's allegedly illegal offer of a sawed-off shotgun. Our retained firearms expert secured the shotgun from the prosecution for examination and testing in the presence of the prosecution's firearms expert. The two experts agreed that although our client had modified the shotgun into an illegal form, our client had also rendered the shotgun inoperable. We informed prosecutors that we had our client's testimony and the testimony of hunting acquaintances that our client knew the shotgun was inoperable and intended its sale only when disclosing its inoperable condition. The prosecutor dismissed the charges on that basis.

Graduate Student Avoids Explosives Charges for Fireworks Possession

A graduate student in a chemical engineering program at a Pennsylvania university retained the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after an arrest on weapons charges. The weapons charge alleged that fireworks the graduate student had purchased and enhanced for an Independence Day celebration constituted illegal explosive devices when transported on campus and other public property. Our defense strategy involved challenging the criminal statute's interpretation and application to fireworks, even when modified to enhance their display. Our forensics expert examined the fireworks and their enhancement, opining that the enhancements did not make the fireworks more dangerous but only more visible and colorful. Under that evidence, the fireworks would not qualify as explosive devices. Their original manufacture had been lawful, and their modification to enhance display would not turn them into an unlawful explosive device unless the modification also increased their danger. The prosecution was unable to secure expert testimony contradicting our forensics expert's opinion. The trial judge indicated at a pre-trial conference that without such evidence, she would rule that the fireworks did not fall within the definition of an explosive device under controlling case law. The prosecution accordingly stipulated the dismissal of the charge. Our strategy of obtaining a skilled forensics review of the facts material to the legal question that would determine the outcome of the case proved successful. The graduate student further avoided university discipline related to the fireworks activity based on the outcome of the criminal charge.

Physician Medical Examiner Avoids Illegal Possession of a Weapon Conviction

A private-practice physician who served on the side as a rural county's medical examiner retained the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after prosecutors charged our client with illegal possession of a weapon. Our client had carried a handgun in his medical bag in the trunk of his car when another motor vehicle struck our client's car from the rear. In the ensuing accident investigation, our client admitted to police that he had the handgun in his medical bag when retrieving the bag from the crushed trunk of the car. Police seized the weapon and arrested our client when our client admitted he had no firearms license. Our client maintained that his rural county's sheriff and other public officials had informed him that, as a medical examiner, he could lawfully carry a firearm without a license. The sheriff had suggested he do so because of potential danger at some of the homicide scenes at which the physician appeared in the course of his medical examiner duties. Our Criminal Defense Team researched the case law in Pennsylvania and other states with similar firearms licensing statutes, confirming that precedent differed on whether medical examiners required a firearms license. We presented that authority and explanation to the prosecution and the court in a pre-trial conference, arguing that the prosecution of our client did not serve any public or private purpose. The prosecution further appeared to be potentially discriminatory, given the ethnicity of our client. The prosecution agreed to a dismissal of the charge.

Sales Representative Defends Weapon Charge Related to Prior Conviction

A sales representative for the Pennsylvania office of a multinational pharmaceutical company retained the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after police arrested him on a charge of possessing a weapon when disqualified by prior conviction. The police had stopped our client on a routine traffic stop. To allay any concern, our client disclosed that he was carrying a concealed weapon and would obey any direction the officers gave him for their safety. The background check for arrest warrants revealed a prior conviction disqualifying our client from carrying the weapon. Officers removed our client from the vehicle, confiscated the weapon, and took our client to the station for booking on the weapons charge. Our client maintained that many years before, when a university student, he had pled guilty to a stalking offense, treated in that case as a first-degree misdemeanor. Our client had served no jail time and had later retained counsel to expunge the conviction. Our Criminal Defense Team reviewed the old conviction and expungement case files, confirming our client's account. But the expungement order appeared not to have been recorded in the file and entered into the database, incorrectly leaving the conviction on our client's record for any background check. Our lead defense attorney brought that information and documentation to the prosecutor's attention at the preliminary hearing. After confirming the information, the prosecutor abandoned the charge, which the court accordingly dismissed.

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