Q: Someone I know filled out an application to purchase a gun, not thinking the 2 nights they spent in a health facility ten years ago mattered. They were arrested for it a few months later, spent the night in jail, had a hearing scheduled. The attorney wanted this person to agree to paying a $150 fine even though the attorney said the whole thing was ridiculous. There were a bunch of magistrates around during the time the hearing was scheduled for, so this person never showed for the hearing because they felt as though it was a trumped-up charge and was going to be arrested for past unpaid warrants.
A: This person needs a lawyer. As you describe it, they made matters worse by not showing for the hearing. It sounds like the attorney had the case bargained down to a summary offense, which would have been a good result for your friend. Yes, one can be arrested for giving false information on an application to purchase a firearm. People are presumed to know what has happened to them in their past. One should have a vivid memory of spending two nights in a mental health ward. However, we are not all wired alike. I have had some success in getting these charges dismissed in circumstances where the person otherwise has no criminal or mental health history and it is believable that they did not fully understand the legal implications of their own history especially considering the confusing questions on the purchase application form. The definition of “Knowingly” in the PA Crimes Code, does give rise to defendable argument.