Accused of Lying on Application to Buy Gun
Client attempted to purchase a firearm from a gun dealer. When purchasing a firearm, a person is required to complete a questionnaire that inquiries about a person’s prior criminal record. The form contained a question as to whether or not the applicant had been convicted “of a felony, or any other crime, for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation.” The instructions for this question then attempt to clarify that a crime that was punishable by imprisonment for more than one year does not include a state misdemeanor that was punishable by imprisonment of two years or less. Client did have a criminal record, having previously pled guilty in three prior cases, but the cases were resolved well over five years prior, and the oldest case was approximately ten years ago. Client also was never sentenced to a period of supervision by the probation and parole department for more than two years, so he believed that he could answer this question “no.”
While Client was not sentenced to more than two years of supervision, the judge could have imposed a sentence of more than two years. The question posed inquired about the length of sentence that the judge could have imposed, meaning the maximum sentence permitted by law, not the actual maximum sentence that was imposed by the judge. Client should have answered the question with a “yes,” and the yes response would have triggered a Federal firearm prohibition for misdemeanor convictions. Client was told that he was not approved to purchase a gun, but Client was not told why he had not been approved. The gun shop owner told Client that in order to find out the reason for the denial, Client would be required to file an appeal with the Pennsylvania State Police. Client filed the appropriate appeal paperwork, and the State Police then advised Client that he was prohibited from possessing or purchasing a firearm because of his prior record.
The State Police then charged with Client with a felony offense of Materially False Written Statement and a misdemeanor charge of Unsworn Falsification to Authorities. Both charges basically alleged that Client had intentionally lied on the gun purchase application. Client maintained that he did not knowingly provide false information because he was not aware of the maximum sentence that could have been imposed by law. He was only aware of the maximum sentence that the judge had actually imposed. The case proceeded to a jury trial in Centre County, and Client was found NOT GUILTY of all charges.