Individuals charged with weapons offenses face serious punishments. If you or a loved one was charged with a gun charge or firearms charge, it is best to consult with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. A seasoned lawyer can present the best defense for individuals facing charges. In this article, we will discuss defenses to weapons charges in Philadelphia.
The Weapon was Obtained During an Illegal Search and Seizure
Consider the following: A police officer stops a car for failing to stop at a stop sign. When the police officer approaches the vehicle, he asks the driver for his license and registration. The officer asks the driver a few questions, which the driver answers. Then the officer tells the driver to exit the vehicle, even though there is no reason to ask the driver to exit the vehicle. The officer looks inside the vehicle and sees nothing in plain sight which shows that the driver committed or is about to commit a crime. Regardless, the police officer searches the car by opening the glove compartment and finds a defaced gun. Due to this finding, the officer proceeds to search the trunk where he finds a duffel bag with a few bags of drugs. The officer arrests the driver who is charged with illegal possession of a weapon and possession with intent to deliver drugs.
However, in this situation, the gun, as well as the drugs, would be suppressed. In order for the police officer to search the car legally, he had to have probable cause, i.e., sufficient facts that would lead the officer to believe that evidence of a crime would be found in the car. There was nothing in this above situation that would lead the officer to think that evidence of a crime would be found in the car. The officer saw nothing out of the ordinary when questioning the driver. Therefore, the police officer conducted an illegal search and seizure of the car, i.e., opening the glove compartment and the trunk. Anything found during the illegal search would be suppressed and not admissible at trial.
Related: Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses Illegal Searches [In this article, the legal doctrine of the fruit of the poisonous tree is discussed and how the doctrine makes evidence inadmissible if the evidence was illegally obtained.]
The Defendant Did Not Possess the Weapon
In order for an individual to be charged with possession of an illegal weapon, the weapon doesn’t necessarily have to be found on the person. The prosecution can present the theory of constructive possession. Essentially, the prosecution can show that the individual had control over the weapon or intended to exercise control over the weapon. In constructive possession cases, the courts would look at all of the facts surrounding the arrest.
Consider the following: Two individuals are hanging out in a house in West Philadelphia. There is a knock on the door and the police are at the door with a proper search warrant to search the premises. There is a basement in the house, and the door to the basement is locked. The police break the lock and search the basement. They find several defaced guns, duffel bags full of money and drugs. Both of the individuals are arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons and possession of drugs with intent to deliver.
One of the individuals lives at the house, and the second individual is a friend that is staying there temporarily. For purposes of this example, we will only discuss the charges against the second individual, who is not the homeowner. The prosecution presents the theory of constructive possession against the second individual.
An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer would argue the following: first, the second individual was only staying at his friend’s house temporarily and did not know about the drugs, money and weapons in the basement. Second, the door to the basement was always locked, and he did not have the key to the lock. The only person that had possession of the key to the lock was his friend, who was the homeowner. Therefore, he had no control over the weapons and drugs as he never had access to the basement.
Help After Weapons Charges in Philadelphia
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