Commonwealth v. A.C.; April 2014

Commonwealth v. A.C.; April 2014

Outcome: Not guilty of multiple firearm possession charges following a bench trial and his record ordered expunged.

Facts: A.C. was inside his grandmother’s house, where he was staying, when multiple gunshots riddled the front of the house and came through the living room. There were multiple family members in the house, including his grandmom, and fortunately no one was hit. Some one in the house dialed 911 and reported the shooting. A.C. and two others exited the property upon police arrival and were standing on the front porch. A.C. had a firearm in his hoody pocket. Police drew their guns and ordered all three off the porch and up against the wall. These victims were suddenly being treated as criminals.

Police patted each one down and recovered the firearm from A.C. Even though he had an Act 235 license (a limited license to carry that allows those working in security or other law enforcement positions to carry a weapon to and from their place of business and while at work), police still arrested him and charged him with possession of a concealed firearm (VUFA Section 6106) and possession of a firearm on the public streets (VUFA Section 6108). The firearm was lawfully purchased by A.C. and legally registered to him.

Section 6108 requires one to be on the public streets of Philadelphia. Additionally, Section 6106 has a provision that excludes individuals who are in their residence or fixed place of business. So, was A.C. guilty of either crime if he was standing on his own porch and he only ended up off his personal property when police pulled him on to the sidewalk to pat him down? Ultimately, the court agreed with the defense and answered that question with a resounding “No” when it found A.C. not guilty of both offenses. But, there were two major hurdles for the defense to overcome for the court to reach that decision.

First, the defendant gave a statement to police upon his arrest. In that statement he told police that his actual residence was another location but that he often stayed with his grandmother. I discuss in this post why you should never provide police with a statement upon arrest and this is a perfect example. You don’t know the law and you believe that by being cooperative and honest you will avoid trouble. But, by providing a seemingly innocent piece of biographical information, A.C. put his case in jeopardy. Second, at trial, the police drastically changed their story and testified that upon their arrival, A.C. and the others who exited the house, walked off the porch and started walking down the public sidewalk before they were stopped. If believed, this would have made A.C. guilty of a felony gun possession charge.

But, the defense was ready for this contingency. First, Mr. Fishman had subpoenaed the two individuals who walked out of the house with A.C. and presented one to contradict the officers’ new story. Second, the defense used the officers’ preliminary hearing testimony and every piece of police paperwork created by the officers to show that at trial, for the first time, they were now claiming A.C. stepped off the porch. After hearing Mr. Fishman’s cross-examination of the officers, inspecting the police paperwork and preliminary hearing testimony and listening to the credible defense witnesses, including A.C.’s grandmother and cousin who testified to A.C. living at the house, the court found A.C. not guilty of all charges. A.C.’s criminal record has been expunged and he can hopefully go back to work as a security officer, a job that he loves.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of a firearm in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks or Chester county, contact criminal defense attorney Brian M. Fishman immediately for a free consultation.