Hunters, Landowners and Permission to Hunt

There are two kinds of property to hunt on, those which are public and those which are not. Private property offers a number of advantages over public, mainly that the landowner controls who can and cannot hunt on it.

So how does one obtain permission to hunt private property in Pennsylvania? It’s simple actually, you just need to ask the landowner. While the permission doesn’t have to be written, conventional wisdom dictates getting it in writing is best for you. It gives you something to point to if at a later time the landowner claims you did not have permission to hunt on their property.

I have created an agreement which a hunter, trapper or fisherman can bring to the landowner and have them sign in order to enjoy the use of their land for a period of time that the two parties agree to. Are you not the person looking to gain permission but give it? The document creates protections for both parties. Landowners are increasingly becoming more concerned with liability of others on their land and this kind of agreement might be the deciding factor which allows you to start or continue hunting on their property.

If you are interested in obtaining a permission to hunt agreement, contact me today at 610-845-3803!

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C&R Licensee applications, FFL Licensee applications and Responsible Persons Questionnaire

ATF recently posted two notices in the Federal Register. One stated that they would be combining ATF Form 7 (5310.12) and ATF Form 7CR (5310.16), the applications for an FFL and Curios and Relics license, respectively. The other notice is for the creation of a Responsible Persons Questionnaire (RPQ) for use with the new proposed form. I’ve included both proposed forms at the bottom of this blog post.

A poster on AR15.com stated that if the proposed changes go through “C&R applicants will not only still need to get CLEO signoff, but they will also need to submit fingerprints and photographs.” In the post, he includes a quote from an e-mail he received from ATF about the proposed changes.

18 U.S.C. §923(a) which deals with individuals engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or importing or manufacturing ammunition, specifically proscribes that an individual applying must submit fingerprints and photographs. §923(b) which addresses individuals obtaining a license as a collector omits that requirement. While the law does not have any specific requirement, it is not outside the realm of possible that ATF could enter rulemaking to require that. That is not the case currently.

Looking at the proposed changes, there is no indication that ATF intends for C&R applicants to submit fingerprints and photographs, which is contrary to the post on AR15.com. Nevertheless, on December 10th, I e-mailed Tracey Robertson from ATF to inquire as to whether ATF intended for a C&R applicant to submit fingerprints and photographs with their application. She responded later that day stating “Photo and fingerprint card are not required for C&R licenses. This will not change with the proposed new forms.” She went on to say that the changes are to combine the forms in order to make the processing more efficient and eliminate common mistakes made by individuals.

After obtaining a copy of the proposed forms, it is evident there is no requirement for C&R applicants to include photographs or fingerprints. The proposed RPQ does indeed have a place for an individual’s photograph. The box to the right does include the instructions that all RPQs, fingerprint cards, photographs and application fees should be mailed to the address below. While at first glance it might seem that it is required for all license applications, the form includes, in rather conspicuous bold font, that Type 03 license applications (those for C&Rs) are NOT required to submit a fingerprint or photograph. The proposed form for the replacement of the current Form 7 and Form 7CR also states in Instruction 6 “A fingerprint card and photograph are not required if applying for a Type 03 license only.”

Nevertheless, there is a problem with ATF’s proposed changes. As the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG)® is often on the forefront of industry happenings (such as the blog post which created a number of applications for Form 1 machine guns that has now gained national attention, ATF 41P commentary, etc.), it came to our attention that ATF’s proposed regulation is in contradiction with 18 U.S.C. §926(b) which requires 90 days notice before proscribing a rule or regulation. These proposed changes have only given individuals 60 days notice to comment.

Proposed Form 7

Proposed RPQ

 

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FICG Files Letter with Borough of Doylestown to Rescind Its Unlawful Firearm Ordinances

Today, Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG)®, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., filed a letter in support of the Borough of Doylestown rescinding its illegal firearm ordinances on behalf of American Gun Owners Alliance (AMGOA), Concerned Gun Owners of PA (CGOPA), Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), Pennsylvanians For Self Protection (PA4SP) and several Borough residents.

As many of our readers are aware, with the passage of HB 80, municipalities will soon be civilly liable for violations of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, in addition to being criminally liable. As a result, the Borough of Doylestown is considering rescinding its illegal firearm ordinances at its meeting on Wednesday, December 10th. Unfortunately, Borough President Ansinn has publicly mocked HB 80 by stating “we’re basically being forced to repeal these laws at gun point. Be sure to ‘thank’ your local state legislators for this ‘common sense’ reform.” It is truly unfortunate that any publicly elected official would support the violation of the Commonwealth’s Crimes Code.

I will keep you advised as I learn what action the Borough of Doylestown will take; however, if you or someone you know is being unlawfully prosecuted pursuant to an unlawful municipal ordinance relating to the regulation of a firearm, please feel free to contact us at 888-313-0416 or info@PrinceLaw.com, so we can discuss your legal options.

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Can I carry a firearm for self-defense while hunting?

A common question for those who have recently moved to the Commonwealth or are new hunters is “Can I carry a firearm for self-defense while hunting?” The answer is yes!

Section 2525 of the PA Game code provides that: “It is lawful for…any person who possesses a valid license to carry a firearm…to be in possession of a loaded or unloaded firearm while engaged in any activity regulated by this title.”

Do not confuse this with being allowed to hunt game with that firearm or ammunition that is otherwise not permitted by the code. It is only for your own personal protection.

Have any questions about the game laws in Pennsylvania or have had an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation? Give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416.

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Opening Day for Antlered Deer in Pennsylvania

Today marks opening day for antlered deer here in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of hunters take to the woods to fill their freezers for the year to come or to find that trophy deer. Every year, individuals are charged with violating the game code.

I previously blogged that the PA Game Commission Officers (GCOs) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCOs) would be allowed to utilize body cameras after taking a course approved by the Pennsylvania State Police. This takes effect on December 31, 2014, which means that come January 1, 2015, GCOs and WLCOs MAY be equipped with the ability to record interactions between themselves and hunters. As deer season doesn’t end until January 24, 2015 this means that there is the potential for an interaction with GCOs and WLCOs wearing body cameras.

What should you do if you are stopped by a GCO or WLCO? Be courteous and polite but do not be intimidated by threats of authority. If you are uncomfortable answering their questions, tell them that you would like to consult with an attorney prior to answering any more questions.

As previously blogged about, Jack Coble was able to successfully challenge his conviction under 34 Pa. C.S. § 2126(a)(6) which makes it unlawful for a person to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof,” by asserting it was a violation of his 5th Amendment and Article 1 Section 9 right against self incrimination.

While the court opinion and order were limited to Coble’s particular circumstance, the lack of opposition by the Assistant District Attorney and the lack of intervention by the PA Game Commission and Attorney General’s Office seems to suggest that an individual charged under this subsection could make a similar successful argument. We believe that individuals confronted by GCOs and WLCOs have a constitutional right against self incrimination and as such are entitled to remain silent and/or consult an attorney.

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be confusing and sometimes even frightening. If you have an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation, don’t hesitate to give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416. Prince Law Offices is dedicated to protecting all of your constitutional rights!

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A Brief Overview of the Criminal Process

After charges are filed, a date will be set for the preliminary arraignment. One will also have to be fingerprinted and photographed.

At the preliminary arraignment the Magisterial District Justice will inform you of the charges against you, advise you of a right to an attorney, set bail, and give you a copy of the complaint and affidavit of probable cause. The majority of time, an attorney is not needed at the preliminary arraignment, unless it is a serious charge like: murder, aggravated assault, sex crimes, possession with intent to deliver, etc.

After the preliminary arraignment, a date will be set for the preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is not a full trial. It simply tests the Commonwealth’s evidence against you. The Commonwealth must prove their prima facie case that a crime occurred and you committed the crime. One can put on witnesses to negate the Commonwealth’s evidence but not for credibility. One has a right to inspect evidence and cross-examine witnesses. It is a very low burden to get charges past a preliminary hearing. All the Commonwealth basically need to do, is prove that more likely or not a crime occurred and you did it then the charges will be held for court, sent up to Common Pleas Court. Because the preliminary hearing has such a low burden, most preliminary hearings are waived or stipulated. Preliminary hearings are primarily used to find out what is really going on with your case. Pa.R.Crim.P 542.

After the preliminary hearing, usually a couple months later, a date for formal arraignment is set. Formal Arraignment is where the offender stands mute and a not guilty plea is entered. It also starts the time for attorneys to ask for discovery, file suppression motions, when one’s rights were violated, and other things.

After the formal arraignment, an attorney has: (1) seven (7) days to file, in writing a request for a Bill of Particulars; (2) fourteen (14) days to file a motion in writing to the Court, for discovery and to inspect the evidence against you; and (3) thirty (30) days to file an Omnibus Pretrial Motion, which is basically a motion including all motions pertaining to one’s case like a suppression motion, motion to compel discovery, and any other motions. Pa.R.Crim.P 572, 573, 578 and 579.

Most counties allow one to waive formal arraignment, but an Attorney can only do this, so if you are Pro Se you cannot waive the formal arraignment.

Next, there will be notices sent for “Call of the List” where you, whether you are represented or not, will inform the Judge the path you case will take, and yes you have to go unless excused from the Judge or your Attorney gets a continuance. From there you will be placed either on the miscellaneous list, which is for pleas or sentence alternative programs like Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition [“ARD”] or Drug Court, or if you are proceeding with trial then you would be placed on the trial list.

No matter what list your case is placed on, a date will be set either for trial or a status update if you case is still pending approval in ARD or Drug Court.

A plea can be taken at almost any time.

This is just a brief overview of the criminal process.

No matter what you decide it is always better to have an attorney on your side.

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I left my firearm in my suitcase, I do have a permit to carry, and was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport and charged, now what?

First of all, be thankful that this occurred in Philadelphia. Being the ex-Thin Line Blue, a Professional Philadelphia Police Officer, long ago, we preferred real crime, which is why you are only being charged a summary, for it could have been much worse.

A summary offense on the totem pole of charges is the very least offense. It is basically the same as a traffic ticket. Will it show up on a criminal background check, probably not, but I cannot make any guarantees.

As stated above, be glad this occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because the First Judicial District has a very efficient way of handling ones first time summary offense.

More likely than not, you have been cited with a disorderly conduct charge that states “A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: . . . creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.” 18 Pa.C.S.§ 5503(a)(4).

I know . . . but this is awesome since it does not effect your gun rights and since you have been charged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the First Judicial District, Philadelphia County Court, located at 1301 Filbert Street, allows first time summary offenders, to pay a fine, attend a class, usually on a Saturday morning or afternoon, and once completed there record will be automatically expunged, so it is actually not a conviction, and once the class and automatic expungement is completed it should not show up on a background check.

It is a great system for first time summary offenders. However, the hiccup that occurs with this process, and be thankful because it could have been much worse, like the possibility jail, probation, and a complete loss of firearm rights for life, is when one wants their firearm returned.

When a firearm is being held for safekeeping, not evidence of crime, and one is not prohibited from possessing a firearm than the firearm must be returned. “The Pennsylvania State Police and any local law enforcement agency shall make all reasonable efforts to determine the lawful owner of any firearm confiscated or recovered by the Pennsylvania State Police or any local law enforcement agency and return said firearm to its lawful owner if the owner is not otherwise prohibited from possessing the firearm. When a court of law has determined that the Pennsylvania State Police or any local law enforcement agency have failed to exercise the duty under this subsection, reasonable attorney fees shall be awarded to any lawful owner of said firearm who has sought judicial enforcement of this subsection.” 18 Pa.C.S.§6111.1(b)(4).

Most counties are not aware of the rules and if they are aware make their own policies. And, yes you could fight you way all through the court systems. Remember, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and Occam’s Razor, so a more feasible and simplistic approach is to file a motion for return of property after completion of the class.

Once a motion for return of property is filed a hearing date will be set thirty (30) days later before a Hearing Officer where your firearm should be returned.

One of the most important things to remember besides having an attorney is get a copy of the property receipt. The property receipt is needed when filing the motion for return of property, otherwise you are going to have to pay your attorney additional fees to go get the copy from City Hall.

It would be very wise to have an attorney on your side in these situations.

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