A young man is pulled over for speeding and police officers discover a reason to search his automobile. During the search, they discover a loaded weapon inside of the vehicle and the young man is forced to answer to weapons charges.
This type of scenario happens every day in Pennsylvania and in states across the country. Like Pennsylvania, most states have strict laws that regulate the use, possession and storage of firearms. When people violate these laws, they can face felony weapons charges whether they consciously intended to commit a crime or not.
In 2007, rapper and actor Ja Rule found himself pulled over by police officers who searched his vehicle after a concert. During the search, they discovered a loaded semiautomatic firearm. He was arrested and released the next day after posting bail in the amount of $150,000.
Ja Rule, whose legal name is Jeffrey Atkins, pleaded guilty to the weapons charges in December. Earlier this month, Atkins turned himself in to begin serving a two-year prison sentence.
It is an unfortunate reality that a simple traffic stop can escalate into serious felony charges of weapons or drug possession. When a person is under the pressure of a traffic stop, he may feel overwhelming pressure to admit guilt. However, experienced criminal defense attorneys understand that people have rights when they are implicated in a criminal investigation.
For example, the U.S. Constitution requires that all searches of vehicles must be legal and reasonable under the circumstances. When an illegal or unreasonable vehicle search results in the discovery of incriminating evidence, a defense attorney's job is to make certain that the search was legal and that no illegal evidence is used to convict a defendant.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Ja Rule begins two-year prison sentence on gun charge," Christie D'Zurilla, 6/8/2011