Can I Get a Charge for Carrying a Loaded Shotgun or Rifle in My Car Expunged in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is an open-carry state. Still, there are limits to weapons you can carry openly or carry concealed. If you're a hunter, the limits are important to know because you can easily forget that you have a hunting rifle or other long gun in your car or truck. Luckily, if you do end up with a charge for carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle in your vehicle, you may be able to expunge the charge. An expungement is an order from a court ordering the destruction of all administrative and court records related to an arrest, charge, or conviction in Pennsylvania.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
You can expunge minor offenses in Pennsylvania, also known as summary offenses, if you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years. These offenses are often referred to as non-traffic code violations as well. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor or a felony, and the maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and up to a $1,500 fine. However, the punishment is usually just a fine.
You can also expunge crimes if:
- You were arrested or charged but never convicted,
- The prosecutor dropped the charges, or the court dismissed them, and
- You entered a nolle prose disposition.
You can only expunge misdemeanor and felony conviction in very limited circumstances, but you may be eligible to have those crimes sealed. If you get your records sealed, they are no longer accessible to the public or through typical background checks but will still appear on FBI background checks and be accessible to law enforcement and the courts.
Carrying a Loaded Shotgun or Rifle in a Car in Pennsylvania
Carrying a weapon without a license in Pennsylvania is a serious crime. The charge can be anywhere from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the weapon and the nature of the crime. However, even if you have a license, there are limits to the loaded weapons you can have in a vehicle.
The Pennsylvania Criminal Code states:
Except as provided in Title 34 (relating to game), no person shall carry a loaded pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, other than a firearm as defined in section 6102 (relating to definitions), in any vehicle. The provisions of this section shall not apply to persons excepted from the requirement of a license to carry firearms under section 6106(b)(1), (2), (5) or (6) (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license) nor shall the provisions of this section be construed to permit persons to carry firearms in a vehicle where such conduct is prohibited by section 6106.
Any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches or any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or any pistol, revolver, rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches. The barrel length of a firearm shall be determined by measuring from the muzzle of the barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt or cylinder, whichever is applicable.
18 Pa. Code § 6102 (2011). While you may be able to carry the firearms defined in the Pennsylvania Code with a license, even with a license, you cannot carry a loaded shotgun or rifle that falls under the definition above unless you're hunting or are a member of law enforcement, the military, or other exemption.
Can I Expunge a Charge for Carrying a Loaded Shotgun or Rifle in My Car?
Carrying a loaded weapon in a car other than a firearm as defined by the Pennsylvania Criminal Code is typically a summary offense and can usually be expunged. In Pennsylvania, you can expunge a charge for carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle in your car if:
- A court convicted you of the charge, but you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- The police charged you, but a court never convicted you of a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony weapons charge. These expungable charges include not guilty verdicts, withdrawn charges, dismissed charges, and nolle prose dispositions, or
- You went through a diversionary program where you completed probation without conviction.
You cannot expunge misdemeanor and felony weapons convictions unless:
- You are at least 70 years old, and ten years have passed since the criminal proceedings, or
- The subject of the criminal record has been dead for at least three years.
If you don't meet one of the criteria above, you probably can't have the conviction expunged. You may be able to have those records sealed or request a pardon.
Juvenile Charges for Carrying a Loaded Shotgun or Rifle
You may be eligible to expunge a charge for carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle in your car if the conviction happened when you were a minor in Pennsylvania, and it was a summary offense. You can have a juvenile record expunged in several situations, including:
- If you are now 18, at least six months have passed since you completed your disposition, and you haven't been charged or convicted of any other misdemeanor or felony since that time.
- If it has been five years since you completed your sentence or disposition, and you haven't faced any additional misdemeanor or felony charges during that time.
There are other situations where you may be able to expunge a juvenile conviction for carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle in your car. A Pennsylvania attorney experienced in expunctions can advise you on your best options.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
The best way to avoid a criminal record is always to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. But if you need a conviction or charge expunged, you should consult a skilled Pennsylvania expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney well versed in helping clients expunge criminal records, including juvenile records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.