The COVID shutdown which started in March 2020 has forced people to relocate for new jobs or simply a reduced cost of living. These moves occur every day of the week at different times. Normally moving personal belongings doesn’t create possible criminal consequences but usually just civil causes of action pertaining to bad moving companies and property damage.
Transporting guns and firearms isn’t like moving other household items or personal belongings as guns, much like motor vehicles, are highly regulated industries in every state but specifically Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Recently our criminal defense law firm represented an individual charged with the illegal possession of a firearm without a license (18 §6106) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This individual was charged with a felony offense which carried with it a possible state prison sentence and the stigma of a felony conviction for the rest of his life. Our criminal defense law firm was able to get these charges dismissed at the preliminary hearing level based on the circumstances surrounding the police stop in the city.
Traffic Stop and Guns – Traveling with your guns
Most illegal gun and firearm cases occur following a police traffic stop and so in addition to evaluating possible defenses at trial which focus on the elements which the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt, your criminal defense attorney must focus on pre-trial motions focused on illegal search and seizure issues under the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and US Constitution.
In this case our client was transporting his rifle in his Ford Explorer and the weapon was inside of a gun case with the ammunition separate from it; this is a critical point. If you are traveling with a firearm and don’t have a license to carry it, you must keep the weapon unloaded and keep the ammunition separate from that weapon. This is especially important in New Jersey where the illegal possession of a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence. In Pennsylvania, while illegal possession without a license does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence, it is a felony offense which can’t be expunged. A felony conviction will severely limit your professional and educational opportunities.
If possible, you should never leave your weapon inside a vehicle overnight, even if the vehicle is locked and secured. If the weapon is stolen or lost, you should immediately report it to the police and local authorities to avoid possible legal consequences from it. Virtually all gun and firearm manufacturer sell or distributes gun cases for each firearm as well as cases for ammunition. You should store firearms and ammunition in these specific containers as opposed to bags, boxes, or other containers which you would use for normal household items.
These gun cases should remain locked during transport. While you’re not obligated to inform police that your vehicle contains a firearm, the mere possession of it in a legally prescribed manner is not a criminal offense. If you’ re charged with a gun crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you shouldn’t make any statements to police following the arrest. You are not obligated to make a statement to police (written or verbal) and in most situations making a statement will only hurt your case.
Common Gun and Firearm Crimes
The most common gun crimes that our law firm defends in Pennsylvania are as follows:
- Possession of firearm by a prohibited person—18 § 6105
- Possession of a firearm without a license—18 § 6106
- Possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number—18 § 6110.1
In New Jersey, the most common gun crimes that our law firm defends are as follows:
- Possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes—2C: 39-4
- Possession of a weapon during the commission of certain crimes—2C: 39-4.1
- Unlawful possession of a weapon (possession of a weapon without a license)—2C: 39-5
Keep in mind that New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, requires a purchaser identification card just to own a firearm and a separate permit for a handgun even if that handgun is only kept in a home or place of business. Obtaining a license to carry in New Jersey is virtually impossible as it is a may issue state whereas Pennsylvania is a shall issue state. Illegal gun and firearm crimes make up the majority of our criminal practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.