Possession of A Firearm by A Non-Violent Felon: Exploring Legal Complexities

In criminal defense, the charge of a non-violent felon possessing a firearm stands as a unique and legally complex scenario. This blog aims to delve into the intricacies of the Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon charge, particularly within the framework of federal and Pennsylvania state law. 

Understanding the Felon in Possession Charge 

Getting caught with a gun when you’ve been convicted of a serious crime is a significant offense known as Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. This is against both state and federal laws and applies to individuals with prior felony convictions found in possession of firearms. This charge is serious because it emphasizes that individuals with a history of crime may pose a higher risk when they have a gun. Understanding the gravity of this charge is essential due to the potential consequences it carries for those accused.  The federal aspect of this charge adds complexity. While many states have their own laws regarding felons in possession, federal regulations come into play when the offense happens on federal property or involves activities across different states. Federal jurisdiction introduces unique challenges, as individuals may face charges in federal court with specific sentencing guidelines. Recognizing the interplay between state and federal jurisdictions is crucial for a comprehensive defense strategy. 

Federal Law and Felon in Possession 

The foundation of the federal Felon in Possession charge is found in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). This statute outlines the specific categories of individuals prohibited from possessing firearms, including those convicted of felonies.  Under federal law, prohibited persons encompass those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year. This broad category includes a range of felonies, and the onus is on the individual to be aware of their prohibited status. 

Pennsylvania State Law and Felon in Possession of a Firearm 

While the federal framework for the Felon in Possession charge is outlined above, Pennsylvania state law also has specific statutes addressing this issue. Understanding the nuances of state law is crucial for those facing such charges within Pennsylvania.  Under Pennsylvania law, the relevant statute is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105. This statute prohibits individuals with certain criminal convictions from possessing, using, manufacturing, controlling, selling, or transferring firearms. Like federal law, the state law applies to those convicted of felonies, but it also includes specific misdemeanors under certain circumstances.  The categories of prohibited persons under Pennsylvania law are broader than the federal statute. They include individuals convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than two years, encompassing a wider range of offenses. Also, Pennsylvania law extends the prohibition to include individuals with multiple DUI convictions within a certain timeframe and those subject to active protection from abuse orders.  One key aspect of Pennsylvania law is the emphasis on the individual’s knowledge of their prohibited status. The state requires proof that the individual was aware or should have been aware of their disqualification from possessing a firearm. This aspect often becomes a focal point in legal defenses, as demonstrating a lack of knowledge can be a viable defense strategy.  Moreover, Pennsylvania law provides for specific penalties for violations of § 6105. The penalties can be severe, often resulting in significant fines and imprisonment. The severity of the punishment depends on various factors, including the nature of the underlying felony conviction and the individual’s prior criminal history. 

Philadelphia Civil Litigation Attorneys and Federal Firearm Offenses 

When facing a Felon in Possession charge, securing legal representation from seasoned professionals is paramount. Philadelphia civil litigation attorneys at Sherr Law Group bring a wealth of experience in federal firearm offenses, providing strategic and nuanced defense strategies. 

Legal Complexities and Defense Strategies 

The prosecution of “felon in possession” cases can be challenging. Establishing the defendant’s knowledge of their prohibited status, proving possession, and navigating the intricacies of federal jurisdiction present hurdles for the prosecution.  As criminal defense attorneys, Sherr Law Group employs multifaceted defense strategies. These may include challenging evidence collection procedures, asserting Fourth Amendment violations, or exploring possibilities for record expungement to alleviate the impact of prior felony convictions. 

Potential Defenses and Mitigating Factors 

Lack of Knowledge 

Demonstrating that the accused lacked knowledge of their prohibited status of firearm ownership, or the presence of a firearm, can be a complex legal defense. This defense often hinges on proving that the defendant was unaware of certain facts that would make their possession or use of the firearm illegal. This lack of knowledge defense may be based on factors such as: 

  • Ignorance of the Law: The defense may argue that the accused was genuinely unaware of the laws surrounding firearm possession in the jurisdiction. 
  • Lack of Awareness of the Firearm: If the firearm was concealed or hidden, the defense may argue that the accused did not know it was present. 
  • Mistaken Identity: In some cases, the accused may claim that the firearm did not belong to them, and they were unaware of its presence. 

To establish this defense, a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the case is necessary. This may involve witness testimonies, forensic evidence, and legal arguments to convince the court that the accused genuinely lacked knowledge. 

Fourth Amendment Violations 

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights during the investigation, it could lead to the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence. Common Fourth Amendment violations that may be raised as a defense include: 

  • Illegal Search and Seizure: If law enforcement conducted a search without a proper warrant or without valid consent, the evidence found during that search may be deemed inadmissible. 
  • Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine: This legal principle holds that evidence derived from an illegal search or seizure is tainted and should be excluded. 

Challenging evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds requires a careful review of the circumstances leading to the discovery of the firearm. If a court determines that the evidence was obtained unlawfully, it may be excluded from the case, potentially weakening the prosecution’s argument. 

Record Expungement 

Pursuing record expungement is a proactive strategy aimed at minimizing the impact of prior felony convictions. Sherr Law Group explores options to expunge or reduce the criminal record of clients. Expungement involves the removal or sealing of criminal records, and it can have several benefits: 

  • Mitigating Felon in Possession Charges: A clean record or a record with reduced charges may influence the court’s perception of the accused, potentially leading to a more favorable outcome in the current case. 
  • Improving Future Opportunities: Expungement can enhance the individual’s chances of obtaining employment, housing, and other opportunities that may be affected by a criminal record. 

The process of record expungement varies by jurisdiction and may involve specific eligibility criteria. It is a strategic approach to address the consequences of past convictions while concurrently defending against new charges. 

Montgomery County Criminal Defense Lawyers and Felon in Possession 

The charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon presents a legal labyrinth that demands comprehensive understanding and strategic defense. Sherr Law Group, with its adept team of Philadelphia civil litigation attorneys and Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers, stands as a beacon for those facing these complex charges.   By exploring federal and local implications, leveraging a collaborative defense approach, and employing nuanced strategies, the firm not only addresses legal complexities but also positions itself as a reliable ally in navigating the intricacies of felon in possession cases. As a trusted legal partner, Sherr Law Group provides the steadfast representation needed to confront these charges and pursue a favorable outcome for its clients. Contact us today. 


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