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Concealed Carry Reciprocity in Pennsylvania

In 2013, 27-year-old Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen was pulled over for a routine traffic stop while driving through New Jersey.  Wanting to be compliant, Allen indicated that she had a .380 caliber handgun in her purse.  Allen was immediately arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon – even though she was licensed to carry the gun in her home state of Pennsylvania.  Fortunately for Allen, her story stirred up public outcry and she was later pardoned by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Despite its happy ending, Allen’s story is a somber reminder of what can happen when gun reciprocity laws are forgotten or ignored.  In this article, our criminal defense lawyers will cover which states honor Pennsylvania gun permits, and explain some of Pennsylvania’s gun laws.

States That Have Concealed Carry Permits

Gun laws are wildly different depending on where you live.  Some states, such as Utah and Alaska, are known for their lenient laws and have become havens for hunters and gun enthusiasts alike.  Others, such as California and New Jersey, impose some of the toughest gun laws in the United States.  Thanks to these dramatic variations, it’s easy to see how someone could get into the sort of situation Shaneen Allen found herself in.

Gun reciprocity laws, where two states agree to honor each others’ permits, have been established to provide a greater degree of consistency.  As a Pennsylvania resident, it’s important for you to know which states do (and don’t) share reciprocity with Pennsylvania.  Otherwise, you could find yourself charged with gun possession while traveling out of state.

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As Shaneen Allen learned the hard way, New Jersey does not honor Pennsylvania permits.  Other states which also do not honor Pennsylvania gun permits are listed below:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York/New York City
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Washington
  • District of Columbia

The following states do honor Pennsylvania concealed carry permits:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

As you can visualize based on these lists, driving north, east, or southeast could cause problems as you pass through states like New York and New Jersey, which do not honor Pennsylvania gun permits.  The only two reciprocal states with which Pennsylvania shares a border are Ohio to the west, and West Virginia to the southwest.

Interestingly, these “reciprocal” arrangements aren’t always double-sided.  For example, Idaho honors Pennsylvania permits, but Pennsylvania does not honor Idaho permits.  However, Idaho is the rare exception: the vast majority of reciprocity agreements are truly reciprocal between both states.

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Pennsylvania Gun Laws: Bans and Prohibitions

While it’s important to be aware of Pennsylvania’s gun reciprocity laws, traveling out-of-state isn’t the only mistake which can get you into legal trouble where weapons are concerned.  There are also certain places inside Pennsylvania’s borders where you could be arrested for having a gun – even if you have the appropriate permit.  For example, Philadelphia observes a city ordinance banning firearms in all city parks, such as LOVE Park (JFK Plaza) and Rittenhouse Square.

There are also several statutes which apply statewide, including the following:

  • 18 PA Cons. Stat. § 913 – This statute makes it illegal to possess a firearm (“or other dangerous weapon”) at a court.
    • Note the use of the phrase “possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon.”  As defined by the same statute, “other dangerous weapons” include knives, brass knuckles, switchblades, blackjacks/billy clubs, bombs, and other explosive/incendiary devices.
    • Of course, this law makes exceptions for court officials who need to be armed, or attorneys who are presenting guns as evidence.
  • 18 PA Cons. Stat. § 912 – This statute makes it illegal to possess any weapon while on school property.
    • “School property” doesn’t just mean the structure itself.  It also includes school buses, school playgrounds, and school parking lots.
    • Again, “weapons” means more than just guns.  Defined most broadly, prohibited weapons encompass any “instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.”

What Happens When I Am Arrested for Gun Crimes in Pennsylvania?

Below, we explain the way the criminal process typically unfolds after you have been arrested for a gun crime in Pennsylvania, and how our battle-tested Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys at Young, Marr & Associates can help you at each stage of the case to work towards bringing the matter to the most positive possible resolution.

Arrest and Post-Arrest

Arrests for a gun crime may happen in one of two different ways. If the police personally witnesses you illegally possess or use a gun, they will have probable cause to arrest you on the spot. If the gun crime is reported to the police, they will likely conduct an investigation into who committed the crime. They will interview witnesses, gather physical evidence, and review security footage. Once they believe they have enough evidence to arrest you for the crime, they will ask a judge to approve an arrest warrant and, when the warrant is approved, will seek you out to place you under arrest.

Preliminary Arraignment and Bail Hearing

At this preliminary arraignment, the judge will read you the robbery charges against you and explain the penalties you may face. Usually, a bail hearing will be held at or around the same time. The judge will consider whether or not to hold you in jail pending the resolution of your case, to release you on bail, or to release you without bail. Because gun crimes vary greatly in their severity, the range of possible outcome for your bail hearing will also vary depending on which crime with which you have been charged

A skilled gun possession defense lawyer like those at Young Marr & Associates will understand how to make the best case for you to be released. We know the factors the judge will take into consideration, including your ties to the community through family and employment, your flight risk, and your criminal history or lack thereof. We can also help guide you through the process of posting bail and retaining the services of a bail bondsman if this is necessary.

Preliminary Hearing

One thing that happens in the criminal process in Pennsylvania that is somewhat unique is the holding of a preliminary hearing for every case. This hearing must occur no more than 21 days after the preliminary arraignment. At the preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth’s attorney will present the evidence collected by the arresting officers to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe you have committed the alleged robbery. The standard in this hearing is that the Commonwealth’s attorney must prove that you are more likely than not to have committed the robbery.

Your attorney will be permitted to argue your side of the matter and present a case as to why the evidence does not meet the standard of proving that you are more likely than not to have committed the gun crime with which you have been charged. If this argument is successful, the robbery charges will be dropped. If the Commonwealth’s attorney’s argument is successful, the case will proceed. However, this hearing can often be helpful even if it does not get the charges dropped, as it will give our veteran trial attorneys at Young, Marr & Associates a chance to see how the prosecutor’s evidence and witnesses perform in a court setting and to get an idea of how strong or weak their case may be.

Formal Arraignment

The formal arraignment will be held after the preliminary hearing. This is the event where you are asked to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty. Unless we have already come to an amenable plea deal with the prosecutor, our experienced attorneys for a Pennsylvania criminal arraignment at Young, Marr & Associates are likely to advise you to plead not guilty while we collect all the discovery and assess the strength of the government’s case against you. The plea can easily be changed t guilty later if you wish to take a deal.

Plea Bargaining

After the preliminary hearing has concluded, your attorney will likely begin negotiating with the Commonwealth’s attorney regarding a potential deal for you. Depending on the type of gun charge that you are facing, and whether you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible for pre-trial diversionary programs like ARD. If we can convince the prosecutor to allow you into such a program, and you complete it successfully, your charges will be dropped and you will not have a criminal record. If pre-trial diversion is not on the table in your case, other possible deals include a situation where you plea to a lesser crime or one where the Commonwealth recommends that the judge impose minimal punishment on you in exchange for you giving up your right to a trial.

Trial

At trial, the Commonwealth’s attorney must prove all elements of the robbery charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will have the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses. After both sides have made their case, the jury will vote on whether to acquit or convict you. The jury vote must be unanimous in order to convict you. If the trial is a bench trial, the judge will issue a ruling finding you guilty or not guilty. For most gun crimes, you will have an automatic right to a trial by jury, but will also have the option to choose a bench trial if you wish. Such a decision should be made in consultation with your attorney after they have reviewed all the evidence and exhausted all potential pre-trial resolutions.

Sentencing

If you are convicted of a gun crime like illegal possession of a firearm, the case will proceed to what is known as a sentencing hearing. At a sentencing hearing the judge will decide what penalties to impose on you for your conviction. For most gun crime convictions, the judge has a good amount of discretion in deciding how harsh your penalties will be, although in some cases there may be a mandatory minimum or maximum sentence imposed by statute. A skilled criminal defense lawyer like those at Young, Marr & Associates will know how to argue for more lenient penalties by showing evidence of your good conduct and reputation outside of this particular incident.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you’ve been charged with gun possession or other weapons crimes in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you’re facing tough criminal penalties.  You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side in court.  To set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates right away at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.

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