In Philadelphia, murder or attempted murder cases are often filed along with a VUFA (Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act) charge. The Uniform Firearms Act can be found at 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Sections 6101-6127, or visit our Gun Possession Criminal Defense Law page for more info.
Someone who is convicted of either a murder charge or an attempted murder charge and a VUFA charge is going to be facing an extensive prison sentence. In first degree murder cases, the max sentence is life in prison. Given the stakes, it’s crucial for an accused defendant to understand the elements of the crimes, common defenses and search and seizure (constitutional) issues that can get evidence thrown out of the case.
In this criminal legal article, David S. Nenner explains Pennsylvania law in murder and VUFA cases as well as search and seizure law relevant to these cases. Mr. Nenner has been representing residents of Philadelphia in major criminal matters such as murder, gun and drug felonies for nearly 30 years. His cases are often featured in local news and online at Philly.com. His firm offers free consultations in criminal cases. Call (215) 515-0042.
MURDER OR ATTEMPTED MURDER & VUFA CHARGES
Under Pennsylvania law, murder or homicide convictions require evidence of the killing of another person. The degree of the crime depends on facts like whether the murder was committed intentionally/willfully, with premeditation (first degree murder) or during the commission of a crime or felony (second degree murder, AKA: felony murder).
Successfully defending murder and attempted murder charges will require an experienced criminal trial attorney who will conduct a thorough investigation into any and all exculpatory evidence, additional witnesses, etc. Get more info about murder charges in PA.
The Uniform Firearms Act (UFA) makes it illegal for most people who’ve been convicted of a crime to own, possess, sell or use a firearm. The list of crimes under the UFA includes homicides, assaults, drug crimes, sexual assaults, robberies, and even corruption of minors. The UFA applies to crimes committed in other states. For instance, a resident of New York who has a conviction for drug dealing under NY law moves to Philly. He is pulled over in downtown Philly for a traffic violation and during search of his car, a gun is found. He is charged with VUFA. His NY conviction for drug dealing counts.
More: VUFA (Violation of Uniform Firearms Act) Law & Philadelphia Criminal Gun Possession Cases (Posted on August 20, 2018) Philly residents facing VUFA charges face 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree felonies. People with prior felony records or prior VUFA convictions face serious prison time.
CONSTITUTIONAL ARGUMENTS TO SUPPRESS FIREARM EVIDENCE
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents law enforcement from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Oftentimes, law enforcement agencies, either state or federal, commit constitutional violations which can result in evidence being thrown out. This includes the firearm in a murder/VUFA case.
For example, a robbery of a convenience store where the cashier was shot and killed has just been reported in West Philadelphia. Several blocks away, a police officer, who’s received the report, pulls over a car for running a stop sign. The officer questions the driver about where he is coming from, going, etc., with no legal basis. The officer also searches the center console without permission of the driver. In the console, the officer finds a gun (subsequent testing shows that it is the same gun used in the robbery). The driver is charged with murder.
The driver’s criminal lawyer files a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that the officer had no basis to extend the traffic stop. After verifying the driver’s license and insurance, the officer should have issued a ticket and let the driver go. Because the officer continued asking questions about where the driver was coming from and going, the officer extended the traffic stop illegally. Then, the officer had no legal basis to search the center console.
Under these facts, the gun would likely be suppressed. In other words, the prosecution would not be able to use it in the underlying murder case. As a result, the charges would probably be dismissed.