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    The Lawletter Blog

    CRIMINAL LAW: Mere Possession of Concealed Firearm Does Not Justify Terry Stop

    Posted by Mark V. Rieber on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 10:08 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 5

    Mark Rieber—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                In Commonwealth v. Hicks, No. 56 MAP 2017, 2019 WL 2305953 (Pa. May 31, 2019), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled precedent from the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Robinson, 410 Pa. Super. 614, 600 A.2d 957 (1991), and held that the mere possession of a concealed firearm does not provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify a stop pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).  The court explained that the prior holding in Robinson, upholding such stops (the Robinson rule) improperly dispensed with the requirement of individualized suspicion and, in doing so, misapplied the overarching totality of the circumstances test.  Although the carrying of a concealed firearm is unlawful for a person statutorily prohibited from firearm possession or for a person not licensed to do so, the court stated that there is no way to ascertain an individual's licensing status, or status as a prohibited person, merely by his outward appearance.  Accordingly, the court held that unless a police officer has prior knowledge that a specific individual is not permitted to carry a concealed firearm, and absent articulable facts supporting reasonable suspicion that a firearm is being used or intended to be used in a criminal manner, there simply is no justification for the conclusion that the mere possession of a firearm, where it lawfully may be carried, is alone suggestive of criminal activity.

    Topics: criminal law, Mark V. Rieber, reasonable suspicion, concealed firearm, prior knowledge requirement

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