Patton Township police arrested a 23-year old Philadelphia man recently after a disorderly conduct call. According to police, a man had pointed a handgun at another man and took some cash from his wallet. The police settled on the Philadelphia man as the suspect.
If the Philadelphia man was involved, he will be facing some serious charges. Not only would he likely be facing something more serious than disorderly conduct for the alleged robbery, but he also has no carry permit or license. Unfortunately, he has a previous conviction for carrying a firearm without a license. Moreover, he has another conviction that precludes him from possessing, using or controlling a firearm. Police also say he misidentified himself to a law enforcement officer, which is a misdemeanor.
It’s not clear he was involved, however. For one thing, he does not seem to have been charged in regards to the robbery, according to a report by the Centre Daily Times. For another, although police found a gun, it doesn’t appear to have belonged to him.
According to the Daily Times, the police stopped a vehicle on North Atherton Street. The Philadelphia man was a passenger in that vehicle, which he did not own. In the trunk, inside a backpack, was a fully loaded handgun.
The officers found nothing in the backpack to tie that gun to the Philadelphia man, and no fingerprints were taken. The position of the police is that they don’t have to tie the gun to him, since he is prohibited from carrying firearms. The gun was in a location that, police claim, was accessible to him — and that is enough.
They’re technically correct, although in this case it seems like quite a stretch. It’s true that you can be convicted of a possession crime by being in the same vehicle as the prohibited object, as long as you could access it. The Philadelphia man was prohibited from possessing, using or controlling any firearm and, by law, having access to one technically fits the “controlling” that prohibition.
In this case, however, it seems reasonable that the Philadelphia man could have been unaware that there was a gun inside a backpack inside the trunk of a vehicle he happened to be riding in. Even if the state can prove he technically controlled the gun, it may not be in the interest of justice for them to do so.
If they had been able to show he used the gun in the alleged robbery, that would be one thing. Since they appear not to have been able to tie him to the robbery, it looks like they threw the book at this man out of frustration.