Learn how to get gun rights restored in Pennsylvania with our comprehensive guide!
- Overview: Restoration of Firearms Rights in Pennsylvania 2022
- What Makes You Lose Your Right to Bear Firearms in PA?
- How to Restore Your Gun Rights in Pennsylvania
- How an Expungement or Pardon Effects Gun Rights Limitations
Are You Eligible for Gun Rights Restoration?
There is a myth about people who have had their gun rights revoked – that a serious felony conviction was earned or violent crimes must have been committed to having had a constitutional right suspended. The truth is, it’s much easier than you think to lose the right to bear arms given to you by the Constitution of the United States of America.
Many firearm revocations result from nonviolent offenses, a misdemeanor conviction, protection from abuse orders, or involuntary civil commitments. Worse, prohibition from gun ownership can go well beyond the final disposition of the case.
One of the most frequent surprising disqualifications is when a second offense DUI results in an M1 conviction – a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. And, of course, no one explains that a plea to a DUI will suspend their right to firearms.
We know how frustrating it can be for people to presume that you committed violent crimes because you have your second amendment suspended.
However, even a nonviolent offense, as outlined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act, can disqualify you from owning firearms. For instance, minor misdemeanors such as a drug charge or a paraphernalia charge can lead to the loss of firearm rights. Despite all these minor and major criminal offenses being grounds for suspension, restoring your constitutional right is important. Here’s a closer look at how it works in Pennsylvania.
Overview: Restoration of Firearms Rights in Pennsylvania 2022
While there are instances in which firearm revocations are well-warranted, others may find themselves questioning whether their relatively minor brush with the law justifies a prohibition from owning firearms and want to learn more about the restoration of firearms rights available to them. In certain circumstances, gun rights can be restored through the pardons and/or expungements processes.
One thing to understand regarding the restoration of firearms rights is that the rights are not “restored,” per se. Instead, the suspensions and disabilities blocking you from exercising your right are lifted and removed. Thus, you become a law-abiding citizen once again regarding firearms.
Pennsylvanians (over 18 years old) have the constitutional right to possess, purchase, and use firearms. That is, until you get disqualified and “lose” the right. “Losing” your right means that your record shows instances the law considers grounds to disqualify you from owning and using guns.
Generally, if a conviction has been expunged or pardoned at the State level, it will no longer be considered a conviction under U.S. or Pennsylvania law.
Regrettably, most criminal offenses that result in the revocation of the right to own firearms are not eligible for expungement until they have been pardoned by the Governor.
What Makes You Lose Your Right to Bear Firearms in PA?
Disqualifications don’t have to be felonies. Common instances that disqualify you include drug charges, including using, possessing, growing, trafficking, distributing, and manufacturing illegal substances—even owning paraphernalia counts as grounds for disqualification.
One popular case that disqualifies people from purchasing and owning firearms is when someone receives an order under Section 302 of the Mental Health Procedures Act. This provision states that an authority can commit a person to a mental health institution (involuntarily) should they deem it necessary.
Usually, the people who obtain this disqualification are involved in a divorce. When there are marital problems, sheriffs tend to come out and will issue protection from abuse (PFA) orders. Issuing a PFA prompts authorities to remove firearms from a home.
Depending on the resolution of the PFA, the disqualification will remain in effect indefinitely. However, PFAs tend to come with misdemeanor assault charges. As such, a person would be disqualified from bearing arms while having a criminal conviction.
In such a case, proving that you are ready to rejoin the responsible, arms-bearing population will take longer. After all, the primary goal of restoring firearms rights in PA involves appealing to a board that you are eligible for bearing arms despite what the records state.
Are You Eligible for Gun Rights Restoration?
Understanding the pardon process is important to determine whether you are eligible to restore firearms rights. Pardons are the first step toward clearing old criminal records, which involves obtaining court records.
Suppose you are attempting to get a pardon. You would need to approach the clerk of courts in the county where you were convicted, which will have your records. Once you have those records, you will submit them to the board and an application.
In your application, you will explain why the crime occurred. In addition, you must detail your efforts in ensuring that you have moved on from your life of crime. Essentially, you must explain why you’re an ideal candidate for a pardon.
When filing an application, the severity of your crime will determine how long you must wait before proceeding. As a general rule, more minor offenses may require less time before applying for a pardon. Accordingly, you will need to wait longer if you were convicted of a big crime. After all, the board determining your eligibility will want to see a significant period to pass by before considering whether you have changed for the better.
For instance, being convicted for a burglary offense or drug use felony may require five or ten years to go by before you can convince the board that your criminal behavior is behind you.
No laws state that you cannot proceed with an application before some years go by. However, you improve your chances of getting the board’s favor when you have more years between your application and conviction.
Meanwhile, pot possession charges that are only a few years old or paraphernalia charges are easier to pardon more quickly, because the pardon board has indicated that they will expedite the review of marijuana-related charges.
Although expedited reviews require the same application forms and supporting documents, the board will review them in as little as a year. Typically, such cases require around 24 – 30 months to review and resolve. So, you can immediately file for a pardon if you have small charges.
Apart from minor marijuana charges, there are unique situations that the board can pardon. Notably, there are unusual retail theft cases that they consider. For instance, suppose you are a graduating college student and want to get employed. Usually, retail theft cases cannot be expunged before they turn five years old. However, you have a unique case as a graduating student.
In this example case, you could explain to the board why you took something without thinking of your situation as a college student up for graduation and intending to get employed. Thus, the board may be receptive to your situation and treat it as a minor crime.
How to Restore Your Gun Rights in Pennsylvania
Restoring your gun rights in Pennsylvania depends on your crime, meaning the solutions vary between people. As such, the first step to knowing your solution is to get your criminal record. You can browse Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System (UJS) and enter your name and date of birth.
Lawyers can help you navigate the UJA and determine which of your criminal records can be cleared. Usually, misdemeanors or felony convictions appear in the records of people seeking firearm rights restoration.
There are specific situations where you can have a series of charges that you can expunge without a pardon. Expungement is a proceeding that involves sealing or destroying records of prior criminal convictions, which is among your goals if you seek firearm rights restoration.
Even without legal assistance, knowing what’s on your record is essential. So, be sure to frequently check your records that are available to the general public. Depending on your record, you will have a specific solution that can clear your record and restore your right to bear arms.
Understanding how to restore gun rights in PA requires you to understand what’s on your record. In the end, you will seek expungement. While there are situations that allow you to fast-track your case’s expungement, you will need a pardon first.
How an Expungement or Pardon Effects Gun Rights Limitations
So, does a pardon restore gun rights, or is that an expungement effect? Both are necessary for lifting your gun rights limitation. When you have a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, the governor will need to pardon your case before it can be expunged. Expungements are a three- to four-month-long process, which you file by local petition.
Generally, it takes around two years to complete a pardon process. It involves filing a governor’s application for a pardon. Then, the governor’s board of pardons will review your application. The process is lengthy and primarily time-consuming because you must request court records and fill out the answers to plead your case to the board.
Understanding how to get gun rights restored in Pennsylvania requires you to understand the pardons process. Pardons and expungements restore gun rights by removing the disabilities or disqualifications placed on your records that prohibit you from bearing arms. You only have the right to bear arms until a misdemeanor or felony conviction disqualifies you.
The governor will grant you a pardon after their board determines that your case is eligible for it. With a pardon, you can file for expungement. Expunging your criminal records is your ultimate goal in restoring your gun rights.
Getting a pardon and expungement is a long and tedious process. Depending on your case, you may spend up to a decade before legally bearing arms. Misdemeanors and felony charges of all sizes can affect your right to possess firearms to ensure the protection of the general public.
However, small crimes can easily be resolved with the board and restore your rights. Meanwhile, more significant crimes on your record will require years before you can approach the governor with a pardon application. What you did between the years of your convicted crime and application will help convince the board that you should bear arms.
To determine whether your situation makes you eligible for firearms rights restoration, research your record. Or, consider getting a seasoned expungement lawyer to determine what cases can be expunged.