PA Criminal Charges and Your Gun Rights

By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, it is important to know that even minor criminal convictions may affect your gun rights. Most people who find themselves charged with a crime in Pennsylvania know that there can be very serious penalties for conviction of even minor crimes. Jail time, fines, probation, and hefty court costs are just some of these “direct” consequences that can come with a criminal conviction. What many people are less aware of are the other consequences that may come later because of a criminal conviction. Many of these consequences may not be known until long after a sentence is served. This article addresses one of these consequences: the effect of a Pennsylvania criminal conviction on your right to own or possess firearms.

The Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act lists many criminal offenses that result in a lifetime bar on owning or possessing firearms on conviction. This list includes many serious felonies (robbery, burglary, rape, etc.). But, it also lists some less serious offenses. For example, a second offense for simple drug possession, a third offense for DUI, or a simple assault between family members or romantic partners. Many are also surprised to learn that many juvenile offenses are included in this list. This means that even juveniles who are“adjudicated delinquent” for certain offenses may lose the right to possess a firearm for life.

What may be less obvious is the effect of Federal law on gun rights after a criminal conviction. The Federal Firearms Act also lists many offenses that result in a lifetime bar on owning or possessing firearms on conviction. Included in this list is a conviction for “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” This restriction applies to any offense that could have carried prison time, even if the actual sentence imposed was much less than that (for example, any misdemeanor of the first degree in PA). This means that a conviction for many Pennsylvania misdemeanors, and all felonies, could cause a lifetime bar on owning or possessing a firearm. Even those who receive relatively minor sentences, like probation or a fine, may be surprised to find that they can never own or possess a firearm again.

For those who use firearms for hunting, self-defense, or employment, losing the right to possess a firearm can be a devastating surprise. Many people who are not represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney make decisions that result in a lifetime loss of firearms rights without even realizing it. If you or someone you care about is or may be charged with a criminal offense in Pennsylvania, you cannot afford surprises. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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