Possession of Firearms; Determination of Fugitive Status

Commonwealth v. Smith, 2018 WL 4089657 (Pa. Super. 2018)(unreported), allocatur granted Feb. 26, 2019, appeal docket 2 EAP 2019

This case involves the appeal of Brahim Smith from the judgment of sentence imposed following his conviction of firearms not to be carried without a license and persons not to possess firearms. At the time of this offense, Smith had an outstanding bench warrant for a probation violation in a separate matter, which was used to support his conviction as a “person not to possess firearms” pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S. 6105, which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Offense defined.—

(1) A person … whose conduct meets the criteria in subsection (c) shall not possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture or obtain a license to possess, use, control, sell, transfer or manufacture a firearm in this Commonwealth.

* * *

(c) Other persons.—In addition to any person who has been convicted of any offense listed under subsection (b), the following persons shall be subject to the prohibition of subsection (a):

(1) A person who is a fugitive from justice. This paragraph does not apply to an individual whose fugitive status is based upon a nonmoving or moving summary offense under Title 75 (relating to vehicles).

18 Pa. C.S. § 6105(a)(1), (c)(1).

On appeal to Superior Court, Smith argued that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he was a “fugitive from justice” as required for conviction under section 6105(c)(1) because the outstanding warrant was for a probation violation. Superior Court disagreed, explaining that  “the statute specifically carves out from fugitive status only those individuals charged with summary traffic offenses,” but provides no other exceptions. Slip Op. at 7. Thus, Superior Court agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that “[Appellant] who had a violation of probation that led to a bench warrant being issued by his supervising judge was a fugitive from justice” and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted allocatur to consider the following issue, as stated by Smith:

Did not the Superior Court err in finding the evidence sufficient to convict Petitioner for violating 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105 because he was specifically convicted under §6105(c), and the Commonwealth failed to prove that he was a “fugitive from justice” as that term is meant in §6105(c)?