But … I was just holding it! Is it a defense to a gun charge

holding a gun for a friendEveryone has done at least one or two favors for a friend or family member when that person goes away on vacation or some other trip. In most situations the “favor” is picking up mail, turning on a sprinkler, or some other minor obligation. There are cases, however, where a person asks that a neighbor or friend hold a gun or firearm for them for safe keeping because of fear of a break in or some other unfortunate event. Everyone likes doing favors but it is important to understand that when it comes to a gun or a firearm that favor could lead to serious criminal consequences under certain circumstances. Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act covers all matters related to guns or firearms in Pennsylvania and these crimes are often called “VUFA Offenses”.

The most common offenses under the Act are violations of Section 6105, 6106, 6108, and 6110.2. Any gun crime requires either the actual or constructive possession of the weapon in order for the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution or District Attorney can’t establish possession, a judge or jury will not find a person guilty because it is an element in any of these charges. Taking possession of a gun is a serious matter because it exposes you to potential criminal liability in the event that police come into your home for any reason. While the police need a search warrant to search your property (except under certain circumstances), the plain view doctrine allows them to make an arrest or confiscate an item based simply them seeing it.

Section 6110.2 makes it a crime in Pennsylvania to possess a weapon (gun or firearm) that has an altered or obliterated serial number. If a friend or family member gives you a gun to hold you shouldn’t accept it if the serial number is altered or obliterated. The defense of, “I’m just holding it for a friend” isn’t good enough and while it may make a difference when it comes to sentencing, you are still guilty of a felony and potentially subject to jail time even for a first offense. This is all assuming that the police’s presence in your home was for a non-criminal or minor matter. If it was for something more serious (i.e. drugs) you would obviously face those criminal charges as well.

Similar to Section 6110.2, Section 6105 makes it a crime to possess a weapon if you are a convicted felon or a person convicted of certain numerated offenses in Pennsylvania which have to do a crime of violence or victim crimes (rape, stalking, kidnapping). Like 6110.2 the mere possession of the gun or firearm is a crime and the offense of “holding it” for a friend on the ride isn’t a defense in a court in Pennsylvania.

Holding it for a friend is not a defense in a gun or firearm crime but if the gun is found in your home you can’t be convicted of Section 6106 or 6108. Both of these crimes require that the firearm not only be in your possession but be found outside of your home or place of business. These are the only situations where “holding it” for a friend would not lead to a criminal conviction.

Gun crimes are extremely serious felony offenses in Pennsylvania. For more information on gun or firearm charges in Pennsylvania, read my blog, watch my videos or visit the free download section.