Pennsylvania criminalizes the possession of a weapon in the premises of a school. Under section 912 of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Penal Code, it is a first degree misdemeanor to have a weapon on your person "in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any [vehicle transporting individuals] to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school." For the purposes of this provision, "weapon" is "defined as but not limited to any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nun-chuck stick, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury." In the wake of recent events, this offense is prosecuted more heatedly than ever before. This could mean overzealous prosecutors eager to get a conviction because of the perceived sense of peace this provides the public. The aim is to deter violence and school shootings, which appear to pose a greater threat than in recent years. Pennsylvania was one of many states to impose a "crackdown" on the provisions criminalizing the possession of a weapon on school premises. Many academic institutions now have signs explicitly stating that weapons and firearms are prohibited. This law does not apply to university campuses.
Whether your child was charged with this offense after misguidedly bringing a knife from school to show friends, or you unknowingly wandered into a park where a high school was conducting a PE class and carried a concealed firearm - there are a number of ways in which people who are innocent of malicious intent could be penalized under this section of law. An aggressive Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will be able to scrutinize the charges against you and see if your offense really meets the criteria for these charges. Your case may also be dismissed if your attorney can prove that the weapon was discovered and seized in an illegal search that violated your constitutional rights.
What Weapons Are Prohibited on School Grounds in Pennsylvania?
- Cutting instruments
- Cutting tools
- Any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury
Exceptions and Defenses to a Weapons on School Property Charge in Pennsylvania
The law clearly states: It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose. These two exceptions are parsed out into two separate clauses and are independent of one another, meaning the possession for a lawful purpose need not be related to a lawful supervised activity. Those who carry a weapon on school grounds for a lawful purpose may still find themselves arrested if law enforcement second guesses that purpose, which may not be immediately perceptible. This is why you will need a lawyer, to present evidence before the court that you may have possessed the firearm or weapon for a lawful purpose but this was not communicated to law enforcement.
Nevertheless, law-abiding gun owners with a legal permit may still be subject to this provision and its penalties if they are found with a firearm on school premises. The application of these laws in real-world circumstances is sometimes hazy, as courts and lawmakers struggle to find a balance between the rights of the accused/rights of law-abiding gun owners and the best interest and protection of children in Pennsylvania schools. Ultimately, it will be up to your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to review the evidence in the case against you and determine the best angle to use when building you the strongest defense.
In some instances, a person is wrongfully accused or accused on the basis of flimsy evidence. If your minor child was accused of possessing a weapon on school property, then you as the parent are permitted to be with them during questioning.
Penalties For Having a Weapon on School Premises
If convicted of possession of a weapon on school grounds, you will face up to five years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. If a student is charged, they may face additional disciplinary action from their school including but not limited to the possibility of expulsion, suspension, removal from clubs and teams. There may be other, associated charges if the minor child or other accused person used the weapon to harm someone on school grounds.
Protect Your Future with a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are faced with a charge of possessing a weapon on school grounds in Pennsylvania, call (215) 535-5353 immediately to schedule a consultation with Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Equipped with extensive experience in criminal defense, Joseph Lento will meticulously review the circumstances of your arrest and the evidence against you. He will fight for a favorable outcome in your case and ultimately do everything within his power to protect your rights.