Making a False Statement in Connection with the Purchase of a Firearm
18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(4)
The Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC regularly represent clients who are charged with the illegal possession or purchase of a firearms, and we have had tremendous success in defending clients in many of these cases. We know the defenses to these extremely serious charges, and we can evaluate the evidence against you and begin building the best possible defense. If you are facing criminal gun charges, call 267-225-2545 for a free, 15-minute criminal defense strategy session.
Gun Charges For False Statements
Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to knowingly make a false statement in connection with the purchase of a firearm. Every person who attempts to purchase a gun in a retail establishment will undergo a state and federal background check in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania law makes it a felony of the third degree to lie in connection with this background check. While most people recognize that a criminal record prohibits a person from possessing a firearm, the laws relating to firearm purchase and ownership are complicated because not all crimes count and many people mistakenly believe that a juvenile record does not count.
Under Pennsylvania law, there are a number of crimes for which a conviction will result in the person becoming prohibited from ever purchasing or owning a firearm. Some of them are relatively obvious. For example, any felony like Burglary, Robbery, or Possession with the Intent to Deliver, will prohibit a person from owning or possessing a gun both under Pennsylvania and Federal Law, and a felon in possession can be charged with a very serious state crime under 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 6105. 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 6105 prohibits felons and people who meet certain other criteria from possessing a firearm, and a violation of this section often carries significant jail time. Although certain prohibitions such as the ones mentioned above are fairly obivous, other convictions are not so obvious. For example, having three DUI convictions within five years leads to a prohibition on firearm ownership. For purposes of this article, it is not possible to list every possible conviction that leads to a prohibition on gun ownership under state law. However, if you have any type of criminal record or anything else which you believe could prohibit you from owning a firearm, it is always advisable both to review the 6105 statute and to consult with an attorney prior to attempting to purchase or possess a gun as it is not a defense to a 6105 charge that the defendant did not realize he or she had a qualifying conviction. This article is not an exhaustive list of the conditions which could lead to firearm prohibition under Pennsylvania and/or federal law.
In addition to prohibiting felons and certain other people from possessing or carrying a gun, Pennsylvania law also makes it a crime to conceal a criminal record when attempting to purchase a firearm. Pennsylvania and federal law require gun purchasers to undergo a Pennsylvania and federal background check, and the forms can be very confusing. For example, question 31 of the Pennsylvania form asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime enumerated in Section 6105(b), or do any of the conditions under 6105(c) apply to you?" Therefore, gun purchasers are required to disclose whether they were ever convicted of one of those crimes or whether the conditions under 6105(c) may apply. Even though the form may be very complicated, it can be a serious felony to answer those questions incorrectly. Under 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 6111(g)(4):
Any person, purchaser or transferee commits a felony of the third degree if, in connection with the purchase, delivery or transfer of a firearm under this chapter, he knowingly and intentionally:
(i) makes any materially false oral statement;
(ii) makes any materially false written statement, including a statement on any form promulgated by Federal or State agencies; or
(iii) willfully furnishes or exhibits any false identification intended or likely to deceive the seller, licensed dealer or licensed manufacturer.
Thus, it is a felony of the third degree for someone to knowingly and intentionally make a materially false statement in connection with the purchase of a gun, and this includes failure to disclose a prior qualifying conviction or adjudication. Further, there are other conditions which can trigger firearm disability under 6105(c) such as Protection from Abuse orders, domestic violence convictions, and mental health commitments.
Can I buy a gun if I have a juvenile record in Pennsylvania?
There are many situations in which juvenile records count for purposes of the statute. Even though many people commonly believe that juvenile records do not "count" in the same way that adult records do, juvenile records have significant consequences. For example, the conditions of 6105(c) including a number of juvenile adjudications, meaning that someone who has been adjudicated delinquent of certain offenses as a juvenile may be prohibited from purchasing a firearm either until they turn 30 or forever depending on the offense.
Accordingly, people often get into trouble with this statute when they leave a prior criminal record off of the form. In some cases, this may be a mistake, and this issue often arises in cases where the defendant had a really old case and does not remember the outcome of the case or where the defendant was adjudicated delinquent of a qualifying offense as a juvenile. Given that the language referring to 6105(b) and (c) is not particularly clear, it is often a defense in these cases if the defendant did not remember the prior conviction or did not realize that the prior conviction or adjudication would count. For example, because most people do not realize that a juvenile record "counts," the prosecution may not be able to show that the defendant knew that the statement was false because the defendant did not understand the ramifications of a juvenile adjudication or the language contained in the 6105 statute which is referenced on the form. Likewise, a defendant who forgot about getting arrested twenty years ago could also have a defense if the Commonwealth cannot prove that the defendant was knowingly lying.
Case Study - Commonwealth v. P.
Commonwealth v. P. – Defendant was charged with a felony under 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 6111(g) for attempting to purchase a firearm and failing to disclose a juvenile record on the background check form. P. had been adjudicated delinquent of a felony as a teenager, but after completing his juvenile probation, he had stayed out of trouble and gone on to own his own business throughout the next ten years. Because of the confusing language on the form, P. did not know that his juvenile record would count, so he did not mention it on the form. When he failed the background check, he immediately filed an appeal with the State Police and informed them that his only prior record was for a juvenile offense and he believed they had made a mistake. The State Police denied the appeal, and a few months later, P. received a phone call from a State Trooper. P. told the Trooper that he had attempted to obtain the gun to protect his store which had been the subject of robberies. He also told the Trooper that he did not believe his juvenile record counted.
P. initially hired another law firm which did not focus on criminal defense. P.'s prior counsel failed to request all of the discovery in the case, and after P.'s prior counsel attempted to convince him to accept a plea deal which included jail time and a felony conviction, P. made the right decision and hired Goldstein Mehta LLC. Attorney Goldstein immediately began a two-pronged approach to the case. First, he had P. obtain proof of his business ownership, a dozen character letters, and proof that he provided for an ill family member. Attorney Goldstein drafted a letter to the prosecution and included all of these mitigating documents. Second, Attorney Goldstein thoroughly investigated the case and forced the prosecutor to provide full discovery. Initially, the prosecutor had not seen all of the documents in the State Trooper's file and believed discovery to be complete, but Attorney Goldstein knew from experience that documents were missing and demanded that the prosecution obtain them from the State Police. The additional, supplemental reports turned out to be highly exculpatory. Once the prosecutor had more information about P.s's otherwise-upstanding background and realized that P. had appealed the denial of background check and mentioned the juvenile record, Attorney Goldstein was able to negotiate a plea to misdemeanor charges and probation, meaning that P. will avoid a felony conviction, serve no jail time, and continue to be able to run his small business and provide for his family.
How Are False Statement Cases Investigated, and Do I Need A Lawyer If I Have Not Been Charged Yet?
These cases typically unfold in the same way. In just about each case, the defendant attempts to purchase a gun and leaves a qualifying disability off of the background check, either on purpose or by mistake. When the defendant's information is run through the State Police computer system by the store, the system rejects the buyer and notifies the State Police of the failed background check. The State Police then obtain a copy of the form, and if the form shows that the suspect left off a qualifying conviction or adjudication, the State Police will call the person and ask for an interview. At this point, you should retain a lawyer and decline to give an interview as the Commonwealth may, without a statement, be unable to show who actually filled out the form and requested the background check. However, many people do not realize that they have potentially committed a felony, so they voluntarily give a statement without counsel present. Once they admit that they have a prior record, even if they tell the Trooper that they forgot about it, they are often charged with a Felony for making a false statement in connection with the purchase of the firearm. Therefore, if you have attempted to purchase a gun and been rejected due to the background check or have been contacted by investigators, it is critical that you speak with an attorney immediately.
DEFENSES TO MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT IN CONNECTION WITH THE PURCHASE OF A FIREARM
Even if you have already been charged, there may be defenses under Pennsylvania law. First, the Commonwealth has to prove that the omission was made knowingly and intentionally. This means that the Commonwealth has to show that the defendant knew they were not telling the truth - not that they just made a mistake or forgot about something. If the defendant genuinely did not believe that an old arrest or juvenile adjudication would count, then the defendant has not violated the statute. Second, the Commonwealth has to show that it was actually the defendant who filled out the form or made the false statement. This can be extremely difficult for the Commonwealth to do in the absence of an incriminating statements to investigators. In other cases, it may be possible to file pre-trial motions such as motions to suppress a statement or challenge whether certain out-of-state or old convictions qualify under the statute.
If you are facing any type of gun charge, call 267-225-2545 today for a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session with the Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC. Our award-winning criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in these serious matters, and we know the defenses and how to obtain the best possible result.