Professional’s Guide to Defending Firearms Charges

Professionals, as accomplished as they are, can still benefit from a guide to unfamiliar law and legal procedures. Indeed, professionals facing firearms charges in Pennsylvania may especially benefit from the knowledge of the law and legal procedures so that they can better assist their retained lawyer in defense of the charges. Premier Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm wants every professional facing firearm charges to know what they need to assist in their defense for the best possible outcome.

What Is a Pennsylvania Firearms Charge?

Gun or Weapon. A firearms charge alleges the unlawful purchase, ownership, registration, storage, or use of a gun of some type. While firearms charge and weapons charge are often used synonymously, some weapons charges may involve a dagger or switchblade knife, grenade, or other lethal and illegal object, instead of a gun.

Sentence Enhancement. When people hear gun, firearms, or weapons charge, they often correctly think of a violent crime attempted or committed with a gun. Pennsylvania statute 42 Pa.C.S. 9712, for instance, does, in fact, enhance the penalty for violent crimes committed while visibly in possession of a firearm or replica, whether or not loaded or functional, if the firearm or replica placed the victim in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. The enhancement statute requires a penalty of at least five years of imprisonment. Attorney Joseph Lento's defense of enhancement charges may dispute the firearm's visibility and the fact or reasonableness of the alleged victim's fear. Prosecutors must prove sentence enhancements beyond a reasonable doubt, like other elements of the crime.

Common Gun Crimes. Professionals, though, are on the whole significantly less likely than other populations to commit violent crimes using a gun. More often, professionals may, like other non-violent and otherwise law-abiding gun owners, run afoul of firearms charges for administrative errors like incorrect or incomplete statements on gun applications, illegal firearms possession or transfer, or carrying a concealed gun or carrying a gun across state lines. Pennsylvania's Uniform Firearms Act codified at 18 Pa.C.S. 6101 et seq. criminalizes a broad swath of gun-related activity.

Among the Uniform Firearms Act's broadest injunctions, 18 Pa.C.S. 6105 prohibits persons already convicted of certain offenses from possessing, using, controlling, selling, transferring, or manufacturing a firearm. The long list of convictions that disqualify a person in Pennsylvania from handling firearms includes murder, manslaughter, certain assaults, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, rape, arson, burglary, criminal trespass, robbery, theft, and rioting, among several other crimes.

In another broad injunction, the Uniform Firearm Act's 18 Pa.C.S. 6106 prohibits carrying a concealed firearm without a license. Section 6106, though, exempts many professionals from the required license. Those exempt professionals who may carry a firearm without a license include constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens and deputies, law-enforcement officers, military members including National Guard and reserves when on duty, persons engaged in target shooting at a place of target practice, federal officials authorized to carry a concealed firearm, employees of carriers, banks, and business required to protect money or valuables, persons manufacturing, repairing, or dealing in firearms, and persons licensed to hunt or fish and dog trainers while actually doing so.

Other Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act offenses include:

  • carrying a loaded gun in a vehicle, 18 Pa.C.S. 6106.1;
  • carrying a firearm on the public street in an emergency, 18 Pa.C.S. 6107;
  • carrying a firearm on the public street without a license, 18 Pa.C.S. 6108;
  • minor in possession of a firearm, 18 Pa.C.S. 6110.1;
  • possession of a firearm with an altered number, 18 Pa.C.S. 6110.2;
  • unlawful sale of a firearm within 48 hours, 18 Pa.C.S. 6111;
  • retail dealing of firearms without a license, 18 Pa.C.S. 6112;
  • unlawful lending of a firearm to another, 18 Pa.C.S. 6115;
  • furnishing false information or identity, 18 Pa.C.S. 6116;
  • obliterating firearm identification marks, 18 Pa.C.S. 6117; and
  • possession of armor-piercing bullets, 18 Pa.C.S. 6121.

What Potential Effects Do Gun Charges Have?

The above variety of firearms charges expose a professional to a progressive set of potential penalties. Depending on their severity, Pennsylvania law defines the above firearms crimes as second-degree misdemeanors for cases such as the unlawful transfer of a firearm, first-degree misdemeanors such as for possession of a prohibited weapon, and up to second-degree felonies such as for prohibited possession of a firearm. The lowest charge, a second-degree misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of one-to-two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The highest charge, a second-degree felony, carries a maximum penalty of five-to-ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine. On these penalties alone, Pennsylvania firearms charges can clearly harm a professional's life and career if not handled properly by a skilled advocate like attorney Joseph D. Lento for the best possible outcome.

Criminal penalties aside, professionals can also face significant career losses from a firearms charge or conviction, more so than non-professionals whose work does not require the highest level of integrity. Professionals may have to report a firearms charge or conviction to a professional licensing body that may consider license discipline, including suspension or revocation, often on a lower burden of proof than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt burden that prosecutions carry. License sanctions may terminate professional employment. Get effective representation from attorney Joseph D. Lento not just for a firearms criminal proceeding but also for license proceedings.

Collateral consequences of a firearms charge or conviction can be severe even for professionals whose practice does not require licensure. Pennsylvania statutes, for instance, impose loss of physician-assistant, respiratory-therapist, and athletic-trainer license under 63 P.S. 271.15 and loss of recreational-vehicle and firearm license and rights under 75 Pa.C.S. 7711.2 for various convictions. Pending charges and bail terms could also limit professional travel. Professionals charged or convicted of gun crimes can also lose reputation. Lost reputation can mean lost assignments, advancement, jobs, clients, patients, and professional networks.

Professionals have a lot at risk when facing firearms charges. Professionals should not risk handling any criminal charge, including firearms charges, on their own or with inexperienced counsel. Minimize your risk of a gun-crime conviction and its collateral consequences. Contact premier Philadelphia criminal-defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm now by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.

Defending Firearms Charges Against a Professional

A primary defense to firearms charges that professionals are often able to establish involves the crime's requisite intent. Many firearms charges, including some of the common possession crimes, require the prosecution to show that the defendant knew of and intended the prohibited conduct. Yet responsible professionals do not typically knowingly break the law. An example would be if a household member hid the gun in luggage within the professional's vehicle so that the professional unwittingly moved the gun across state lines. The prosecution may not be able to prove the requisite intent.

Gun-crime charges may also simply be false, based on a misinterpretation of the evidence or on fabricated or mistaken testimony. Others may have made clerical errors in licensing and registration, exposing the innocent professional to criminal misunderstanding. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented many professionals charged with gun crimes, raising and prevailing on these and other defenses.

Professionals Can Help Their Gun-Charge Defense

The procedural training and analytic outlook of a professional can enable them to assist criminal-defense attorney Joseph Lento in defense of firearm charges. Consider this outline of how attorney Lento works with client professionals through Philadelphia criminal-court procedures:

  • at the police investigation stage, attorney Lento ensures that investigators receive exculpatory information while the defendant client relies on the privilege against self-incrimination;
  • at the complaint stage, when the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office files the criminal complaint, attorney Lento ensures that the defendant avoids self-incrimination, understands the process, and prepares for arrest;
  • at the arrest stage, attorney Lento ensures that the professional submits promptly at a time and place, and in a manner, minimizing embarrassment and jail-holding time;
  • at the appearance stage before the Municipal Court, attorney Lento advocates to ensure that the professional goes free on reasonable bail terms to assist attorney Lento's defense to the charges;
  • at the formal arraignment before the Municipal Court judge, attorney Lento is present to explain the charges and associated rights and respond to the court's inquiries;
  • at the preliminary hearing before the Municipal Court judge, attorney Lento argues for dismissal if the prosecution fails to produce evidence on each element of the charged crime, to avoid bind over to the Court of Common Pleas;
  • attorney Lento may argue for pretrial diversion before the Court of Common Pleas, allowing the defendant to follow out-of-court procedures that can result in a dismissal of the charges;
  • attorney Lento may file pretrial motions to suppress evidence that the police illegally obtained, on grant of which the prosecution may lack evidence to continue the prosecution;
  • at the pretrial conference, attorney Lento addresses evidentiary and other issues while negotiating for the charge's dismissal or plea agreement on reduced charges;
  • at trial, attorney Lento gives an opening statement, cross-examines prosecution witnesses and calls defense witnesses, makes and argues motions to dismiss and other trial motions, and makes the closing argument;
  • at any sentencing, attorney Lento ensures accurate and complete information in the presentence report and advocates for leniency applying Pennsylvania's complex sentencing guidelines; and
  • for any appeal, attorney Lento analyzes the trial record for errors and irregularities unfairly influencing the outcome to gain post-conviction relief.

Constitutional Rights Affecting Firearm Charges

A professional's constitutional right to due process can, in some cases influence the outcome of firearm charges. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the defendant in a criminal case the following due-process rights, most of which the Pennsylvania Constitution also guarantees, that attorney Lento enforces:

  • a right against unlawful arrest, the violation of which may lead to suppression of a confession, a gun recovered in the arrest, or other evidence like fingerprints, blood tests, and DNA;
  • a right against unreasonable search, the violation of which may require the exclusionary rule to bar the gun or other items as evidence;
  • a right against self-incrimination, requiring authorities to read arrestees their Miranda rights before custodial interrogation, the violation of which may require suppression of custodial confessions;
  • a right to a fair lineup, the violation of which may require suppression of eyewitness identification of a professional mistakenly identified as committing a weapons offense;
  • a right to counsel, the violation of which requires suppression of the gained confessions;
  • a right to a fair trial, including a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses whose testimony lacks credibility, the violation of which may require suppression of the witness's testimony or a new trial;
  • a right to a fair and representative jury of one's peers, including a jury from which the prosecution has not removed panelists based on their sex or race, the violation of which requires a new trial; and
  • that the prosecution must prove each element of a firearms charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the failure in which requires the charge's dismissal.

A Professional's Best Outcome on Firearms Charges

The above discussion shows how the representation of preeminent Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can defeat Pennsylvania firearm charges against a professional. The best outcome to a gun-crime charge is the charge's dismissal for lack of evidence or as a remedy for the violation of the defendant professional's rights.

The prosecution must prove firearm charges under the same rules and burdens as other charges. That procedure ensures that attorney Joseph Lento can make the critical difference in the outcome of the charges. The expert law services that the Lento Law Firm provides win cases. With so much at stake, a professional facing firearms charges needs premier criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's skilled advocacy just as much as others who face such charges.

Professionals owning firearms can find additional helpful education and resources through the National Rifle Association defending Second Amendment rights, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives protecting citizens from abuse of Second Amendment rights, and Philadelphia's firearms license application form. Attorney Joseph D. Lento knows the law, procedures, and resources to help a professional achieve the best outcome on firearms charges.

Retain Expert Help with Firearms Charges Now

Retaining preeminent Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is as easy as making the call. Attorney Lento has helped many professionals charged in Philadelphia and surrounding areas with firearms charges and other serious charges, getting the charges reduced or dismissed so as to save professional practices and careers. Act now. Promptly retain and consult with premier criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Receive your case evaluation now from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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