As part of a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, the subject of the order may have their gun rights temporarily taken away. In April of 2019, a gun safety bill signed by Governor Tom Wolf went into effect. Under Act 79, all defendants who are subject to a final protection from abuse order are required to turn over all firearms and ammunition if they contested the PFA case. Additionally, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense will be required to turn over their firearms within 24 hours.
Previously, individuals convicted of domestic abuse had 60 days to relinquish their weapons and could turn them over to a friend or family member. However, now those convicted of domestic abuse or under a PFA will have to hand over their firearms to a law enforcement agency, licensed firearms dealer, attorney, or commercial armory.
Do I Have to Give Up My Guns Under a PFA?
A general PFA often includes a firearms restriction. You can check your individual PFA to see whether it includes turning over any guns and ammo. Your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on whether you need to hand over your guns after a PFA is issued.
Generally, there are a couple of ways to be able to keep your guns after a PFA. If you win a PFA hearing, then the PFA restrictions may be lifted and you will not have to turn over your guns. Additionally, your attorney may be able to negotiate to get a PFA that does not require the relinquishment of guns. However, it is up to the judge to determine whether to approve the PFA agreement.
It should be noted that almost all judges, in an abundance of caution, will order that a defendant surrender his/her firearms per either a temporary or emergency PFA order pending a final hearing. What this means is that defendants will almost universally have to turn their guns over to the applicable law enforcement agency, or their attorney, to be stored until subsequent steps in the PFA process.
Getting Your Guns Back After a PFA
If you turn over any guns or ammunition to the sheriff's department or law enforcement agency, you generally have to wait until the temporary or final protection from abuse order has been dismissed or expires. After the PFA is dismissed or expires, you may be required to fill out a form and return the form to the law enforcement agency before your firearms can be returned.
The following conditions must be satisfied before the firearms and ammo can be returned:
- The firearms, other weapons or ammunition relinquished must not be evidence of a crime.
- The defendant or owner must not be otherwise prohibited by state or federal law, or another condition, from taking possession of the firearms seized.
- The defendant or owner must have been given a clearance by the Pennsylvania State Police Instant Check System Unit or through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
If the law enforcement agency finds that the conditions for return have not been met, the defendant or owner may file an appeal for a petition for return.
Pennsylvania Attorney to Dismiss PFA Orders
Pennsylvania attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped challenge PFA orders to keep their firearms and avoid criminal charges. Having your voice heard in this challenging time is critical and the Lento Law firm can help. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.