On a regular basis, people who have no intention to break the law get arrested for possessing firearms. The problem is, people often believe that only those convicted of violent felonies are legally prohibited from possessing firearms. This is far from the case. Prohibitions at the Federal level are primarily based upon 18 U.S.C. 922. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, our prohibitions stem from 18 Pa.C.S. 6105.
Some of the most common, but lesser known prohibitors include those who are convicted of a “crime punishable by more than one year.” 18 U.S.C. 922(g). Under 18 U.S.C. 921, “crime…” means:
(20)The term “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” does not include—
(A)any Federal or Stateoffenses pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices, or
(B)any State offense classified by the laws of the State as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less.
What constitutes a conviction of such a crime shall be determined in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held. Any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.
Notice the term “punishable by.” It doesn’t matter whether somebody actually served more than one year (for a felony) or more than two years (for a misdemeanor). The law looks to the maximum sentence the judge could have sentenced for that crime. Most people with old convictions have no idea what the max sentence of their sentence was.
If you are unsure as to whether you are eligible to own and possess firearms it is important that you contact an attorney experienced in the firearms laws of your state. Your attorney should conduct a thorough investigation as to whether you are eligible to lawfully own and possess firearms. We help people avoid criminal charges every day by providing these investigations. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Excuses such as “I didn’t know I was prohibited” or “I didn’t mean to break the law” will have no legal significance as to innocence or guilt.