Two Arrested at Philadelphia Airport for Handguns Found in Carry On Bags – What makes an airport security search constitutional in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
Recently, two people were arrested at Philadelphia International Airport for attempting to bring handguns on to an airplane in their carry-on bags. The handguns were found at the security checkpoint and now the two men face criminal charges in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and possibly federal criminal charges!
This is an important story because the Holiday Season is quickly approaching and many will be getting on planes at various airports in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where our law firm defends persons charged with crimes.
Were their constitutional right against illegal search and seizure violated at the airport when security searched their luggage and found the handguns?
No. Constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, DO NOT apply in this case because he, like all passengers, surrender practically all of their constitutional rights by consenting to search as a condition to enter the airport in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
If you’re charged with crime involving the illegal possession of handgun or firearm, it is important that your criminal defense attorney evaluate all possible scenarios, including non-trial dispositions in the form of a negotiated guilty plea or an open plea. If your attorney is not able to negotiate the proper plea offer, the only alternative is to proceed to trial.
What are the most common exceptions to the search warrant requirement?
Warrantless searches are for the most part illegal in Pennsylvania. There are however exceptions to the search warrant requirement. One of these exceptions are airport security screening.
The most common exceptions to search warrants include the following situations:
- Searches performed based on police officer’s safety (aka – pat down/frisk)
- Inventory searches (impounded vehicles)
- Search Incident to Arrest
- Automobile (illegal in Pennsylvania but legal in New Jersey)
- Border Check Point
- Airport Searches
How should your criminal defense attorney handle your case involving the illegal possession of a handgun or illegal narcotic?
Whenever a person is charged with a possessory crime involving the illegal possession of a handgun, firearms, an illegal drug or narcotic (aka CDS-controlled dangerous substance) there are two main areas that we target from a defense standpoint—pre-trial illegal search and seizure and trial—actual and/or constructive possession.
In these particular cases at the Philadelphia Airport, it appears that the prosecution will be able to establish actual and constructive possession again. There is no evidence to suggest that it was someone’s else bag or he did not have full control of the searched item. If this case proceeded to a criminal trial, it is very likely that the prosecution (district attorney) would establish that these people committed this crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is evidentiary burden of proof in all criminal cases regardless of the jurisdiction in the United States.
The most common gun crimes in Pennsylvania are violations of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act under Section 6106, 6105 and section 6108.
In Pennsylvania, Section 6105 and 6106 both involve the illegal possession of a gun, typically a handgun. Section 6105 is the possession of a firearm by a person not to possess or otherwise known as a prohibited person. A person convicted under this section is one found in the possession of a gun or a firearm who has been previously convicted of what Pennsylvania classifies as an enumerated offense. An enumerated offense can be any one of a number of offenses but the most common are violent felonies such as aggravated assault, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, robbery, and burglary.
Enumerated offenses also include persons who have been convicted of drunk driving on 3 or more separate occasions within a 5 year period, a person with an active PFA order against them, or protection from abuse orders. Enumerated offenses also include those convicted of drug crimes where the maximum punishment exceeds 2 years. While this wouldn’t include a conviction for simple possession it would include convictions for felony possession with the intent to deliver any controlled substances.
It’s important to keep in mind that a person can be convicted of a 6105 offense even if they are found in possession of a gun in their home or place of business.
If you are charged with a gun crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact our office today!
Contact Our Illegal Search & Seizure (4th Amendment) Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.