As we reported in earlier blogs,
Philadelphia and the surrounding counties have been stepping up prosecutions of gun
crimes including the illegal transfer of firearms from one person to another
know as "straw purchases" by people referred to as "straw
The authorities, particularly the Philadelphia District Attorney’s
Office, have been thinking “outside the box” when it comes
to seeking bigger sentences for those accused of illegally possessing
guns and firearms. First, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office
has created a specialized unit to handle and prosecute these
types of crimes. The unit consists of veteran prosecutors and detectives and is known
as the GunStat Initiative. (You can read our blogs about that Program
here). GunStat investigators and prosecutors targets individual offenders and
specific areas of the city. The
Philadelphia Daily News reported that “Police keep close watch on the offenders and stop
them for even the most minor offense, such as spitting on the sidewalk,
so they can pat them down.”
Now the DA and the GunStat Unit is not only watching suspects when they
are on the City’s streets, they are checking up on their Facebook
Philadelphia Inquirer reported today about a recent case against several people from Philadelphia
involved in the straw purchase of guns. A Philadelphia gun seller reported
suspicious activity to the authorities last year. As a result, a young
woman was arrested and charged with buying guns legally, but then giving
them to others illegally. When police arrested the woman, she made a statement
to police. One of her relatives named Ruiz got a copy of the statement
and gave it to another man named Henriquez. Henriquez put the statement
on his Facebook page. The police arrested Ruiz and charged him with gun
offenses; bail was set at $150,000. The police also arrested Henriquez
and charged him with witness intimidation; his bail was set at $250,000.
Obtaining evidence from social media sites is a tactic that the Philadelphia
District Attorney’s Office has been employing more and more often.
Recently, the DA’s Office
charged a man with perjuryafter he had been shot repeatedly. In that case, the crime victim became a criminal defendant after the
DA found something he did not like on the shooting victim’s Facebook page.
There are a few important points that can be taken away from these cases.
First, be careful what you post online because the government is watching.
Secondly, all people involved in a straw purchase of guns can, and often
will, be arrested and prosecuted. In Philadelphia, local law defines a
Straw Purchaser as "Any person who conducts or attempts to conduct
a gun purchase on behalf of another person." The person who buys
the gun is called the purchaser in the statute. The person who receives
the gun from the purchaser is known as the transferee. It does not matter
which side of the transaction a person is on - they can be charged with
violating the straw purchaser law. Recent amendments to the law now call for
mandatory jail sentences of 5 years for repeat offenders. The new penalty is known as the "Brad Fox Law." It was
named in honor of the police officer and father who was recently killed in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
Timothy Tarpey, and
James Lloyd are defense attorneys
and former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys with who have have handled
more than a thousand cases in which people have been charged with gun
and firearm offenses. If you or someone you know has questions regarding
gun crimes or or the use of evidence from a social media site like Facebook,
youtube, twitter, or MySpace in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, or Delaware
Counties, contact us for a
free consultation with an experienced attorney at (215) 352-3432.
With more than 40 year of experience, our lawyers have extensive knowledge
of how to defend these specific types cases so that your freedom is protected.
For example, our attorneys can win a case by seeking suppression of evidence
based on violations of an accused’s constitutional rights. The evidence
could be a gun, a statement to police, or evidence recovered from websites.
Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have litigated hundreds of motions
to suppress evidence.