The end of the year is quickly approaching. Many will spend the weekends shopping, running errands and decorating. During this stressful time, people often make mistakes in judgement and this can lead to criminal charges. A major issue in these cases is illegal search and seizure and one’s constitutional rights. Our criminal lawyers defend individuals charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
State and Federal Law Enforcement Searches vs. Private (non government) Searches
All searches are not the same and there is a substantial difference, however, between searches done by a government official, such as a police officer or other law enforcement and private searches. All persons have a 4th Amendment right against illegal search and seizure and both Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s constitution provide further protections. The purpose of the 4th Amendment and the corresponding state sections regarding illegal search and seizure is to keep unwarranted police out of citizens homes and personal property, such as vehicles.
The 4th Amendment, however, only protects individuals against government searches and not private searches. For example, where a private citizen (such as a private investigator) uncovers or retrieves incriminating evidence against someone, that private citizen can turn over that evidence to police without any type of illegal search and seizure issue. It is important to keep in mind however that searches done by private citizens at the direction of police or working with police, are still subject to 4th Amendment protections. These situations would include private guards and security police who are not generally cited under the 4th Amendment as government actors.
What should your criminal defense lawyer do if you’re charged with crime involving illegal narcotics, guns and firearms
If you’re charged with a crime involving an illegal gun, narcotic or drug, following a search in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it is important that your criminal defense lawyer ask the following questions:
- Who conducted the search?
- Was there a search warrant?
- What time did the search occur
- What contraband was discovered
- How was it discovered or uncovered.
There is a presumption in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that all searches require a search warrant, but there are various exceptions, which make warrantless searches permissible. Keep in mind however that warrantless searches of vehicles in Pennsylvania are considered illegal, but are generally accepted in New Jersey. New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, follows the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement. Pennsylvania, however, following the case of Commonwealth v. Alexander in 2020, makes warrantless searches of vehicles illegal. This means that police, in most situations, need a warrant to search a car in Pennsylvania!
How different are the gun and firearm laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
The laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are very different! For example, in New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, a person can’t purchase any gun or firearm without first requiring a purchaser identification card. In addition, to purchase a handgun in New Jersey, one must first obtain a permit to purchase this type of weapon. There is also a limit in New Jersey with regard to the number of hand guns that can be purchased (one every 90 days). Pennsylvania, does not require any type of purchase, identification card unlike New Jersey. Pennsylvania, unlike the Garden State, doesn’t ban any type of assault rifle for purchase.
Pennsylvania Gun Laws – Important Points
• There is no waiting period.
• There is no license or permit to purchase required.
• There is no training required before or after purchasing a firearm.
• The minimum age to purchase a long gun (rifle, shot gun, semi-automatic rifle) is 18. The minimum age to purchase a handgun is 21.
• There is no limit on the number of guns one may purchase at a time.
• There are virtually no regulations on the sale of ammunition.
• Private sales (by unlicensed dealers) of long guns (rifles, shot guns, semi-automatic rifles) do not require background checks
New Jersey Gun Laws
- New Jersey, requires the purchaser identification card prior to any purchase.
- New Jersey has a long list of rifles and handguns which are banned within the Garden State. These include any semi-automatic rifles which have the following characteristics:
- Flask suppressor or thread barrel
- Folding or telescoping stock
- Pistol grip, which protrudes beneath the action of the weapon
Contact Our Criminal Defense 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.