The state imposes harsh penalties on those convicted of stealing firearms or receiving firearms that were stolen. If you have been accused of this offense, your actual guilt is immaterial - if the prosecution can prove/hobble together enough evidence that you stole a firearm or received one you knew to be stolen, you could face charges. This is why you must immediately seek out of a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to challenge your charges and defend your rights.
Under Title 18 § 3903, it is a second-degree felony in the state to commit theft of a firearm. It is likewise a second-degree felony to receive a stolen firearm, however, this offense is upgraded to a first-degree felony if the accused is allegedly "in the business of buying or selling stolen property." This applies to a whole manner of firearms, including but not limited to handguns, such as single-shot pistols, revolvers or semi-automatic pistols; long guns, such as rifles and manual, semi-automatic, fully automatic shotguns, and carbines. There are unique legal considerations when dealing with machine guns because they are considered offensive weapons, on par with grenades and stun guns. The alleged sale/possession of machine guns is subject to different laws and penalties if a criminal defense attorney can not successfully fight the charges. Criminal defense attorney Joe Lento is equipped with a toolbox of legal strategies. He can challenge many aspects of these cases and the evidence upon which the prosecution's argument is founded.
With this legislation in place, PA legislators aim to curb the tide of illegal gun flow by heavily policing offenses related to firearms and greatly enhancing the existing penalties of a given charge if the prosecutor can prove firearms were involved.
According to some reports, over 600,000 guns are stolen in the United States each year. This is believed to contribute to the overall flow of illegal and prohibited weapons throughout the country. Additionally, lawmakers arguably fear that firearm theft may contribute to or be a means by which people with nefarious intentions obtain guns, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the United States. However, law enforcement is an imperfect system, at times riddled with flaw and error. Just because you have been accused of stealing a firearm and now face the considerable penalties associated with this charge, does not mean you are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. There is much work to be done in your case, for both the prosecution and your defense counsel. There are a number of ways in which your attorney can build and present your defense to raise doubt about the allegation that you stole a firearm.
Penalties for Firearm Theft in Pennsylvania
Second-degree felonies such as firearm theft are punishable by up to $25,000 in fines and as much as 10 years in prison. Common theft (not of firearms) typically results in a misdemeanor charge and various fines. The scale at which the penalties increase indicates the severity of this offense. If the value of firearms stolen is greater than $500,000, it could be upgraded to a first-degree penalty. The valuation of a typical handgun is about $200, so the prosecution would have to provide evidence of some kind of mass operation to make such a lofty accusation. For first degree felonies, the maximum prison term is 20 years. When faced with such considerable penalties, it is critical that you enlist the services of a criminal defense attorney. In only 2/3 of cases did those charged with firearm theft ultimately receive jail time.
Because the element of a firearm is characterized as an enhancement in the grading of theft offenses, there are no specifically enumerated exceptions to the charge. This does not mean that an aggressive defense attorney could not conduct a thorough investigation of your case and raise a number of viable defenses to counter the prosecution's claims.
If your rights were violated at any point of your arrest, the charges against you may be dropped. If the evidence against you was obtained illegally, through a dubiously conducted search, your lawyer may be able to get the evidence thrown out. If, for example, the gun itself becomes inadmissible evidence because it was acquired in an illegal search, the prosecution is left scraping for evidence to convict you a crime. Effective legal maneuvering may be the key to getting yourself out of the charges that now burden your mind.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
Skilled Pennsylvania defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento Lento can help you combat the accusation that you stole a firearm. It is critical that you contact him immediately so that he may begin reviewing your case and building your defense.