What is Firearm Straw Purchasing?
A straw purchase, sometimes known as a “nominee purchase,” refers to any purchase where an agent enters into an agreement with to obtain goods or services for another person. Typically, that requesting individual is unwilling or unable to buy the goods or services for himself or herself. Following the purchase, the agent then transfers the good or service to the requesting individual.
In some instances, straw purchases are legal transactions. However, in cases where the requesting individual uses the goods or services to commit a crime with the purchaser’s knowledge then the transaction is illegal. The same is true in cases where the requesting individual is not legally entitled to purchase the services or goods at issue.
Straw purchases involving firearms are often illegal and can result in jail time, probation, and high monetary fines. If you are currently facing an illegal firearm charge, you should call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today to discuss your case with an attorney. Our legal team can review your case and circumstances – including the circumstances of the straw transaction – and help you assert the best possible legal defense to your firearm charge.
Straw Firearm Transactions
Both state and federal law criminalize firearm transactions that involve a straw purchaser. At the federal level, a straw who purchases the firearm at a firearm dealership that is federally licensed – and who lies about the end possessor’s identity – can be charged with making a false statement on a federal firearms transaction record.
In cases where someone purchases the firearm as a gift, the individual who purchases the firearm is deemed the end user of the firearm. It is also illegal for anyone who does not possess a Federal Firearms License to buy a firearm with the intention of reselling it.
Moreover, a person may not purchase a firearm for someone who is not legally allowed to possess a firearm, such as a minor. Finally, it is unlawful to present false identification as part of a firearm purchase.
Firearm straw purchases are also prohibited in Pennsylvania. Specifically, an individual who is not a licensed gun manufacturer, importer, or dealer – and who transfers a firearm to some other unlicensed person – must do so in the county sheriff’s office. Alternatively, the transaction must occur in a licensed individual’s place of business.
In order to convict you of an illegal firearm transaction, the state or federal prosecutor has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense attorney can determine the likelihood that the prosecutor will be able to meet his or her burden and advise you as to all of your legal options.
Potential Penalties upon Conviction
When a straw purchase that involves a firearm is a federal offense, your criminal case will be handled in the federal court system. Under federal laws, both the straw purchaser and the prohibited purchaser can sustain criminal charges.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, failing to abide by state laws involving the legal sale of a firearm can result in third-degree felony charges.
A federal conviction for an illegal firearm purchase can result in up to ten years of incarceration, as well as a maximum monetary fine of $250,000. A conviction can also have a severe negative impact on your reputation in the community and in your profession.
Defenses to a Firearm Conviction
Given the possible criminal sentences and penalties associated with illegal firearm purchases, you will want to come up with a strong legal defense to your criminal charge. A Philadelphia firearm defense lawyer can help you develop a strong legal defense to your charge and can introduce that defense in court. Some potential defenses in both state and federal firearm cases include the following:
- Fourth Amendment violations – Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to file a motion to suppress evidence on your behalf if police officers or investigators seized the firearm without having the necessary probable cause, search warrant, or search warrant exception. This is especially true if the firearm was confiscated from your home or vehicle since both of these areas are afforded Fourth Amendment protection. Evidence, including firearms that were obtained pursuant to an unlawful search or invalid search warrant cannot be introduced against you at the time of your criminal trial.
- Lack of knowledge – If you can show that you did not knowingly or intentionally possess the firearm in question, then your charge – and your entire criminal case – could conceivably be dismissed.
- Lack of possession – The majority of offenses that involve firearms require that you be in physical possession of the firearm. In order to be deemed “in possession” of a firearm, you must exhibit some degree of control over it. For example, the weapon could be discovered on your person or in your general vicinity (i.e., your reach area). If you were merely a passenger in a motor vehicle or a visitor in a home where a firearm was found, you might be able to argue that you did not actually or constructively possess the firearm in question.
Contact a Philadelphia Firearm Defense Attorney about Your Case
If you are facing state or federal firearm charges – including those that involve a straw purchaser – you should seek out skilled legal help as soon as possible. Given the potential penalties you could receive upon conviction, it is not a good idea to leave the outcome of your criminal firearm case to chance.
The skilled Philadelphia legal team at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law regularly defends clients against gun charges in both the state and federal courts of Pennsylvania. You should call our office as soon as possible to find out how we can assist you with your case and ensure that your legal needs are being met.
To schedule your free consultation and case evaluation with a knowledgeable Philadelphia firearm defense attorney, please call us today at 215-712-1212, or contact us online.