The state of Pennsylvania actually does not define the term “gun.” They defined the term firearm and that is a pistol or revolver that can be used with one hand. There are two other definitions that Pennsylvania uses. Firearm is the only actual definition that they have, but it is for handguns. Then, there is what is called a long gun which is basically everything else and there is a third category called NFA which stands for the National Firearms Act. These are weapons that are banned federally, but you can use them if you are registered and approved, your fully automatic weapons, your suppressors, your short barrel shotguns, and explosives. Pennsylvania actually has no definition for gun.
How Has Your Experience Been In Handling Firearm Cases?
We mostly get involved in the purchasing of a firearm. We get these cases more than any other, because it is what most people do. A normal person goes to purchase a weapon. They fill out this form. That form has a lot of questionable language. If you answer one of those questions improperly, you will be charged with falsifying a document which is a felony in our state. There is also an underlying misdemeanor that can be charged. Typically, the state police charge both of those. That is the most abundant, because that is the process that most people go through every day, regular citizens going to purchase a weapon, make a mistake on a form and all of a sudden, they have a felony charge against them.
Then you have your normal criminal offenses where a weapon is involved. Typically, drug offenses and aggravated assaults where weapons are involved.
What Are The Major Issues On The Form That Can Cause Someone To Face Felony Charges?
We do all this stuff all the time and start to collect the data on this information on what is going on here. The main question that binds people up in Pennsylvania is this is a US Department of Justice form. It is a federal form that you have to fill out in Pennsylvania when you want to purchase a weapon. There are thirty questions. There is thirty-six total to fill in the blanks, but the main section is section 11. In that, there is A through L. The one in Pennsylvania is letter C. It states, “Have you ever been convicted in any court of a felony or any other crime in which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year even if you received the shorter sentence including probation”. In Pennsylvania, that actually means a misdemeanor, not felony.
By one year, they mean two years in Pennsylvania. How is anyone actually supposed to know that? The form does not tell you that. It is basically anything in Pennsylvania where it is a misdemeanor at the first degree where your punishment is five years max. Misdemeanor, second degree is two years max, but that is not over two years. People get confused for sure with that, because they see felony, but it is really a misdemeanor. Then, they say one year, but it is actually two in Pennsylvania. It is the federal government and this is their form. They require the states to use this form when purchasing a gun from a dealer.
That is one of the big problems. The one we typically see the most. Then, there is the other one, the question D right below it, are you a fugitive from justice? What exactly does that mean? What if I have an unpaid parking ticket? I could possibly have a warrant for that in another county. What if you are on vacation and you get a ticket somewhere, and someone removed the ticket from your window? Now, all of the sudden, in North Carolina, you happen to have a warrant against you and you have no idea about it. Technically, you are a fugitive and you could get wrapped up with felony charges because you answered that as a no. It happens.
What Are The Potential Penalties For Filling Out The Form Incorrectly?
It can be a federal crime, but it is typically handled through the Pennsylvania Firearms State Police in Harrisburg. They typically do the charges and keep it safe. Generally this is a felony three. Maximum is seven years and a $15,000 fine for the felony three. Often they throw in a misdemeanor three as well which is a maximum one year and $2500 fine.
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