Does Pennsylvania Have Constructive Possession Laws?
They do have constructive possession. Essentially, that can be anywhere in the vehicle, anywhere in the room in the house that you are in, and in some situations, anywhere in the house depending on what is going on with the house itself. There were some drug offenses that had this as a clause for mandatory sentences that has been recently overturned. It is complicated because they still recognize the constructive possession, but it does not necessarily apply to the drug offenses anymore for increased sanctions. Constructive possession does occur in Pennsylvania. If you are in a vehicle, it is the vehicle itself. If you are in a house, it is typically in the room that you are occupying.
What is The Process If Someone Makes A Mistake On The Form When Purchasing A Gun?
When you go to a purchase a weapon in the State of Pennsylvania, and you at a legal firearms licensed dealer, they will have you fill out a form for your background check. Then, what happens is it goes into the federal system. They make a phone call and they do what is essentially an instant background check. They will get one of three answers, approved, denied, or pending which means they need further investigation. If you filled out that form, you may know right away that there might be a problem, because they are going to deny the request for now. From there, what happens is they do not necessarily tell you why it was denied. They will just say, “You’ve been denied.” Then, that will be it.
You do not get a gun that day. You go home. You will then eventually receive a phone call from the Pennsylvania State Police Firearms Division in Harrisburg. They will ask you, “Were you at “X” gun shop attempting to purchase “Y” firearm?” That is when you will have your next indication that there is a problem and they are going to go through that form and say what the mistake was. They actually make the decision on whether or not to charge you. They typically are on the side of caution, and will charge, and figure it out later in court. That is when the felony and the misdemeanor are charged.
Should Someone Contact An Attorney If They Are Denied A Firearm?
Absolutely. I would contact an attorney at that moment in time so they can explain to you what is going to happen and that you are going to be getting a phone call from the state police. That way, when the state police do contact you, you can advise them that you have retained an attorney and that they need to talk to us as your attorney. Then, they will contact us and we can explain or not explain the situation depending on the circumstances.
Does The State Usually Press Charges Or Can These Mistakes Be Explained Away?
Most of the time, no one realizes they need an attorney so they end up talking to the state police. The state police will take their statements and file the charges. Then, it is figured out in court. Charges will be filed. You will be set for a preliminary hearing, and an arraignment date where you will go in to the magistrate’s office. From there, if the charges are bound over for court, you will then have bail set. You will then be moving from the magistrate level to the Court of Common Pleas level. Then, from there, it is go to trial or some type of plea arrangements. The magistrate level is the first time you will be in front of a judge.
There you can question the officer that filed the charges, and have him explain exactly why he thinks that this was not a mistake and that you were purposely doing this or you should have known that the answer was not what you indicated. There are explanations on the form itself. Here, you check yes or you check no. They will make the argument that you knowingly did that at the magistrate level. That is why they filed the charges. That is where your first confrontation with the police would be, in court. If it is bound over, bail shall be set. Then, you move up to the Court of Common Pleas.
Can Someone Bail Out Of These Charges? Do These Cases Mostly Go To Trial?
Yes. Typically, the bail is set relatively low unless you have a large criminal history, but for most people, these charges were an honest mistake. They have very minimal criminal history, if none at all, but they made a mistake on the form. Most of these cases end up pleading to probation mainly because of the way the law is written. I do not want to say it is a definite guarantee, but there are some difficult cases because you cannot explain on the form.
They are difficult in that sense. Then, it is the officer’s testimony against the defendant’s testimony. It becomes very difficult in some situations depending on which question it was that was answered like the one we talked about with the warrant in another state. You can easily explain to a jury and people will understand that, but if you have a criminal conviction, most of the time, people will expect you to know what you were sentenced to or could have been sentenced to. Those charges are typically from people will take the probation, so they can get rid of the felony. They will plead down to the misdemeanor.
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