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Pennsylvania firearms charges carry tough penalties

The use and possession of firearms are strictly regulated in Pennsylvania and people who are accused of weapons crimes in Pennsylvania can face serious criminal charges. In addition, people accused of weapons crimes can face federal charges as well as state charges.

There are several broad categories of firearms offenses. Many weapons crimes involve possession of an illegal type of weapon. There are many types of illegal weapons, including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and firearms equipped with a silencer. A second type of weapons crime involves the illegal use of a weapon in the commission of a separate crime such as robbery. A third type of weapons crime involves a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

State and federal felon-in-possession laws differ slightly on key points, but the punishment for violating these laws can be quite severe. In practice, these laws make it a crime for a person who has been convicted of any one of a wide variety of crimes to possess or carry a firearm. Often times, charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm result from a traffic stop or from an investigation into an unrelated crime.

Recently, a 34-year-old Pennsylvania man received a very stiff prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to law enforcement officials, he had been previously convicted of drug distribution charges related to cocaine and heroin. The longest sentence he received for these charges was 11 1/2 months to 23 months in jail.

Authorities allege that they found the man in possession of a Bersa .380 semi-automatic handgun in 2007. As a result, federal prosecutors charged the man with being a felon in possession of a firearm. After pleading guilty, he was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Because weapons charges can carry serious penalties, it is important for people who are facing these charges to have serious legal representation in court. If you or a member of your family is facing weapons charges in Pennsylvania, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help fight for your legal rights in the criminal justice system.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Gun violation gets Wilkinsburg man 15 years in prison," Rich Lord, 6/10/2011

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