Tag Archives: 18 pacs 912

Chief Counsel Prince Secures MONUMENTAL Decision from the Superior Court, en banc, regarding Possession of Weapons on School Property

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin, 1114 MDA 2015, regarding whether an individual is entitled to claim the defense of “other lawful purpose” when carrying a weapon on school grounds.

As our viewers are aware, after the original devastating decision was issued by the Superior Court holding that one could not possess a weapon on school grounds, unless it was related to a school activity, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince contacted Mr. Goslin and offered to represent him in petitioning the Superior Court to reconsider his case, en banc, and permit re-briefing and oral argument. After filing the motion for reconsideration, the Superior Court vacated its prior decision, granted reconsideration, en banc, and permitted the parties to re-brief the matter and to argue the matter at oral argument. Thereafter, Chief Counsel Prince re-briefed the matter and attended oral argument.

Today, the Superior Court, en banc, without any dissenting opinions, filed its decision vacating the trial court’s finding of guilt and declaring:

We disagree with the trial court’s conclusion that the language of Section 912(c) is vague.
Rather, we conclude that, in order to ascertain the meaning of Section 912(c), we need not look beyond its plain language. The plain meaning of Section 912(c) provides two separate defenses: possessing and using a weapon on school property “in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity” as well as possessing “for other lawful purpose.” (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince specifically argued this exact construction and noted the different verbs utilized related to the different provisions)

Consistent therewith, the court declared that:

for purposes of the instant case, the plain meaning of the phrase “other lawful purpose” is an aim or goal different from, or in addition to, an aim or goal described in the first clause of Section 912(c), i.e., in conjunction with “a lawful supervised school activity or course.” The second clause of this subsection, thus, serves as a catchall provision.

Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, the “other lawful purpose” language does not restrict the defense provided in Section 912(c). Instead, the phrase does just the opposite: it expands the defense to include any additional or different lawful reason not otherwise mentioned in the first clause of Section 912(c), regardless of whether it is school-related. (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince additionally argued this construction of the statute).

The Superior Court also included a footnote declaring:

Although we are concerned about individuals possessing weapons on school property, we are bound by the broad defense that the legislature has provided defendants in such cases.

As our readers are aware, unfortunately,  Mr. Goslin was not in a position to fund this litigation and his costs will continue to accrue, as the case is now remanded back to the trial court. Therefore, if you are in a position to be able to help fund this monumental victory, Mr. Goslin would greatly appreciate donations which can be made online through our Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/princelaw/trust. Simply place Goslin Appeal in the Matter No/Client Name box.

If you or someone you know has been charged with possessing a weapon on school grounds, contact us today to discuss YOUR rights.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Can You Bring Your Sword Into a School Administration Building? The Superior Court Says No…

Recently, in Commonwealth v. Giordano, 2015 PA Super 167, the Pennsylvania Superior Court published an opinion by Judge Wecht (who is currently running for PA Supreme Court) holding that although a school administration building was not defined in the statute as part of an “elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution” and no case law existed as to whether an administration building could constitute an “elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution,” Mr. Giordano could be convicted for violating Section 912 by bringing a sword into an administration building.

Section 912 provides

(a)  Definition.  Notwithstanding the definition of “weapon” in section 907 (relating to possessing instruments of crime), “weapon” for purposes of this section shall include but not be limited to any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool, nun- chuck stick, firearm, shotgun, rifle and any other tool, instrument or implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.

(b)  Offense defined.  A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school.

(c)  Defense.  It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.

As stated in the opinion, “Giordano asserts that the Commonwealth proved only that he carried a weapon into the administration building, which is neither an elementary nor a secondary educational institution.” The court acknowledged that “[w]e have found no precedent that defines “elementary or secondary publicly-funded education institution for purposes of the statute” and that “[t]herefore, we must construe those terms using our interpretive canons. After reviewing several dictionary definitions of “education institution” and secondary school, the court declares

Here, the administration building does not provide the first four to eight years of a child’s formal education nor does it off a general, technical, vocational, or college-preparatory curricula. However, we must also consider that the General Assembly does not intend an absurd result.

Hold on, the court acknowledges that it doesn’t fit any of the dictionary definitions, so to accomplish the court’s desired result, they declare that because “homebound instruction is provided in the building,” it constitutes an elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution? This sure sounds like judicial activism to me, especially when the court is determining whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Mr. Giordano of a misdemeanor of the 1st degree.

Mr. Giordano also argues that Section 912 is not a strict liability crime and therefore, consistent with prior holdings of the Commonwealth Court, requires that the Commonwealth prove that he had the mens rea to commit a crime. The court agreed with Mr. Giordano that the Commonwealth had to establish that he acted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. However, the court, once again seemingly motivated by its own desired ends, found that since Mr. Giordano knew that a weapon could not be brought into a school building, the mens rea was established. While there is no dispute that Mr. Giordano knew he could not bring his sword into a school building, the court seems completely oblivious to the first several pages of its opinion, where it acknowledged that the statute did not specify that an administration building was part of an elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution and that no case law existed to place Mr. Giordano on notice that an administration building may constitute an elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution. If a statute is so vague as it does not place an individual on notice that his/her conduct may be prohibited, then the statute is unconstitutional for violating due process and the individual cannot be charged for violating it. Commonwealth v. Baxter, 2008 PA Super 200, 956 A.2d 465, 468-469 (Pa. Super. 2008) (en banc).

Additionally, there is no mention of whether Mr. Giordano argued that the defense found in subsection (c) applied. As there is an exception for other lawful purpose and nothing in the opinion establishes that he had an unlawful purpose, it would seem that subsection (c) would have applied.

It is truly disheartening when our courts permit the ends to justify the means. While it may not have been wise of Mr. Giordano to carry a sword into the administration building, such does not make it unlawful.

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