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DAVID CLARK
Criminal Defense Attorney

Chester County Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

If a person is found to illegally possess a firearm in Pennsylvania–that is, they are not authorized because of the law to have said firearm–they will be arrested. However, merely possessing a firearm in one’s place of abode, such as their home or business that is legal but not legally registered, it is not a crime. For instance, a person could have inherited the firearm from a family member. In other cases, a person could have had the firearm gifted to him by a friend. In those circumstances, it is not necessary to register the firearm. However, should a person be unauthorized, such as a convicted felon, the consequences are severe. Often they are arrested, held without bail and face a minimum sentence of approximately 60 to 120 months incarceration and a $25,000 fine. With all this in mind, it is important to contact a Chester County gun lawyer as soon as possible should you be facing charges.

Restrictions on Eligibility

Aside from those who have a criminal background and are legally prevented from having any type of firearm, in general most citizens are within their legal rights to keep a gun on their property if it was gifted to them or it was inherited.

On the other hand, if a person has a mental health incapacity or physical disability they are not eligible to have such firearm. If an individual was involuntarily or voluntarily committed for mental health issues it prevents them from legal possession. Additionally, individuals charged and convicted of DUI or a drug offense–including both possession and use–can be prevented for life from having a firearm. This is because they have either a substance abuse problem or other issues that would prevent their mental capacity from having such.

It is important to note that a person can be found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm–even if they are otherwise eligible to have it–if they are caught carrying it concealed on their person or in a vehicle without a license.

Potential Penalties

The penalties for unlawful possession of a firearm can range anywhere from mere probation with fines all the way to incarceration anywhere between five and 10 years in jail, in addition to a $25,000 fine. This is an area where having an experienced lawyer will be an invaluable asset to the negotiation portion of the case. A strong attorney will work to mitigate the damages at every turn, reducing the charges as much as possible. In some cases, they are able to change what otherwise would be an incarceration sentence into a probationary sentence, and in some rare case and even diversionary programs.

Law Enforcement Focus

Chester County gun laws are often more focused on the possession of firearms by persons not authorized to possess them because it is much more common than distribution charges. However, there are multiple special police units in place that deal with the transfer of firearms and illegal sale thereof within the county. Those crimes can be even more severe as they are often prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office or the federal government in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Thus, while both possession and transferring or selling firearms are cases that appear before the courts, the latter can often lead to more serious prosecutions.

Gun Free Zones

In Chester County, like the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there are specific areas that are often governed by the federal government that do not allow firearms to be present. Those areas are:

  • Airports
  • Federal buildings
  • Courthouses
  • Schools
  • Municipal buildings that have duly publicized areas

In most of those locations even local police cannot enter with their firearm, however special federal agents are allowed such firearms in federal law enforcement agencies. Additionally, in the criminal courts, sheriffs are allowed to carry firearms so that federal courts can be protected as well as local and state courts.

How An Attorney Can Help

Facing charges alone can be intimidating, as the odds are stacked against you in the legal system. Having an experienced gun lawyer working for you and representing you along the way can make the difference between being dealt an incarceration sentence with heavy fines, and instead receiving the lesser consequence of probation and possibly a diversionary program.