Scaringi Law Helps Restore Client's Second Amendment Rights
The team at Scaringi Law is proud to announce that we successfully appealed a county court’s decision denying our petition to expunge our client’s involuntary commitment. The Pennsylvania Superior Court agreed with us and ordered the trial court to grant our petition, thus restoring our client’s Second Amendment rights. We were able to convince the Superior Court that the county court made a mistake in determining that the criteria for an involuntary commitment under Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act (MPHA) were satisfied.
Had we lost the appeal, our client’s Second Amendment rights would continue to be denied. That’s because under Federal Law, “it shall be unlawful for any person…who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution…to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(4).
And, under Pa state law, it is unlawful for the following person to possess a firearm, “A person who has been adjudicated as an incompetent or who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for inpatient care and treatment under section 302, 303 or 304 of the provisions of the act of July 9, 1976 (P.L.817, No.143), known as the Mental Health Procedures Act...” 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105 (c)(4).
Involuntary Commitment Under the MPHA
Under Pennsylvania law, a person who presents a “clear and present danger” to themselves or others may be subject to involuntary commitment. Section 301 of the MPHA provides that a person presents a clear and present danger if, among other factors, the person has attempted suicide, within the past 30 days, and there is the reasonable probability of suicide unless adequate treatment is afforded under the MHPA. Clear and present danger may be shown if the person threatened suicide and took substantial steps in furtherance of the threat. Section 302 of the MPHA allows physicians to conduct an emergency examination of that person to determine if a clear and present danger exists. If that determination is made, then the person is involuntarily committed for up to five days under Section 302, and possibly longer. Once the 302 is issued, the person automatically loses their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, not just for the duration of the commitment, but forever, unless legal action is taken to restore those rights.
Expungement of a Section 302 Involuntary Commitment Order
Not all commitments are done in conformity with these requirements. Sometimes administrative or procedural mistakes are made. In other cases, the certifying physician errs on the side of caution and commits the person even though there’s insufficient evidence to do so. Thus, the law does allow individuals subject to 302 commitments to challenge them later. And that is what we do for our clients.
Under 18 Pa.C.S. 6111.1(g)(2), “a person who is involuntarily committed pursuant to section 302 of the [MPHA] may petition the court to review the sufficiency of the evidence upon which the commitment was based. If the court determined that the evidence upon which the involuntary commitment was based was insufficient, the court shall order that the record of the commitment submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police be expunged.”
In our case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that there was not enough evidence to support our client’s Section 302 commitment. The court reasoned that the record contained little more than vague statements from the client indicating suicidal ideations. Further, there was no evidence that our client tried to take any substantial steps toward harming himself. As a result, our client’s involuntary commitment was expunged. When the court granted our expungement request, our client’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was restored.
Scaringi Law is Committed to Defending Your Constitutional Rights
This country’s founders outlined specific rights and individual freedoms that the government may not abridge. Among those rights is the right of the people to keep and bear Arms. If you feel that your constitutional rights have been infringed by the government or another party, you should consult an experienced attorney from Scaringi Law. We are a full-service law firm representing clients in all types of cases, including Second Amendment matters.
To ask about a free consultation about your rights, call Scaringi Law at (717) 775-7195 or contact us online today.