Is Possession of a Firearm a Felony or Misdemeanor in Philadelphia?
Pennsylvania’s gun laws are complex and made more complicated by the fact that Philadelphia’s gun laws are more restrictive than elsewhere in the state. What may be legal outside the city limits can actually be a crime one you are in the city. As a result, you could face yourself facing gun charges even though you thought what you were doing was perfectly legal and you had no intention of committing a crime.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we believe that you are entitled to the full protection of the law. We fight for your rights so that you can get a fair result. The sooner you call our office, the sooner we can help. Schedule your free consultation today with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney by contacting us online or calling 215-712-1212.
What Do You Mean by Possession?
In general, it is legal to possess a firearm in Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. That said, there are restrictions regarding who can own a firearm, as well as how firearms are transported and carried. The severity of the charges you face will depend on the particular offense with which you are charged and the circumstances of your case.
Possession of a Firearm in Philadelphia
First, it’s important to recognize that Philadelphia has its own specific law pertaining to possession of firearms. Under Section 6108 of the Uniform Firearms Act, it is against the law to carry a firearm on any public street or public property within the Philadelphia city limits unless:
- You have a license to carry a firearm; or
- You meet one of the exemptions laid out in the statute, such as transportation of the weapon to or from a firing range
The law prohibits both open and concealed carry on your person or in your vehicle. However, the law does not prohibit the following:
- Owning a firearm
- Carrying a firearm on your person in your home or place of business for personal protection
Obtaining a license to carry a firearm (sometimes referred to as a “concealed carry permit) is the best way to avoid an unlawful carry charge.
The Difference Between Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Gun Laws
The major difference between Philadelphia’s gun possession laws and Pennsylvania state law is that “open carry” (not concealed) is arguably legal outside of the city’s limits. You should note, however, that Pennsylvania law is actually silent on whether open carry is legal, and it is illegal under state law to carry a concealed weapon on your person or in your vehicle without a license.
Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia is a Misdemeanor
Carrying a firearm in a public area in Philadelphia is a third-degree felony offense. If convicted, you face the following penalties:
- Three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison
- A fine of up to $15,000
If you were eligible for a license and committed no other crime at the time of your offense, unlawful carrying of a firearm is reduced to a first-degree misdemeanor offense. While misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies, you should be aware that the consequences are still serious. If convicted, you face the following possible penalties:
- Two and a half to five years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
Of course, charges for unlawfully carrying a firearm often are brought along with other charges. If convicted, you will face the penalties for these crimes in addition to the penalties for carrying a firearm without a license. One of the most common gun charges is unlawful possession by someone who is prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. Under Pennsylvania law, you are prohibited from owning a firearm in the following situations:
- You have been convicted of a violent felony in Pennsylvania or another state such as murder
- You are a fugitive from justice
- You have been sentenced for a drug crime for more than two years in state prison
- A judge has determined that you are incompetent or you have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- You are an immigrant without legal status
- You have been charged with domestic abuse and are subject to a protective order
Depending on your situation, you could face additional charges anywhere from a third-degree misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony. As a result, the penalties for unlawful possession of a firearm range anywhere from one year in jail and a fine of $2,500 to 10 to 20 years in state prison and $25,000 in fines.
Possession of a Firearm by a Minor
It is also against the law in Pennsylvania for a minor to possess a firearm. If you are under 18 and charged with possessing a firearm, you will be tried in juvenile court. However, you are exempt from this prohibition if you own the firearm with your parent or guardian’s consent and supervision or were hunting at the time you possessed the firearm.
Possession of a Firearm with an Altered Manufacturer’s Number
It is a second-degree felony to own a firearm which has had the manufacturer’s number altered in any way. This includes firearms where the serial number has been filed off or otherwise removed, and even if you were not the one who altered it. If convicted, you face five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
It is also against the law to possess any Teflon-coated or armor-piercing ammunition while committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime. Keep in mind that prosecutors can charge you for the “attempt” to commit a crime in a broad range of circumstances. Possession of prohibited ammunition is a third-degree felony.
Don’t Face Your Gun Charges Alone – Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Pennsylvania’s gun laws are complex, and you could be facing severe penalties if convicted or violated them. Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer knows how to fight your gun charges. She uses her knowledge and experience to fight for your rights and make sure you get a fair result. Call us today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We can discuss your case and how we can help.
Image Credit: Clinger Holsters via flickr