Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Concealed Carry is Not Probable Cause

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court actually got one right: they have ruled that just because someone is lawfully carrying a firearm does NOT mean that police can use that fact as probable cause to conduct a search.

pennsylvania supreme court
Underlying photo via Tripadvisor

The National Review reported,

In Commonwealth v. Hicks, police responded to a citizen call after Hicks was spotted showing his handgun to another person outside a convenience store. He did not rob the store. He did not do anything illegal. He was a concealed-carry holder in lawful possession of his gun. “Numerous” police officers responded to the call, stopped the vehicle, restrained him, and conducted a search. They smelled alcohol and found a small bag of marijuana. They then arrested him for driving under the influence and disorderly conduct.

Hicks challenged the legality of his arrest, and while the trial court dismissed the disorderly-conduct charge, it upheld the legality of the initial search. The court ruled that “possession of a concealed weapon in public creates a reasonable suspicion justifying an investigatory stop in order to investigate whether the person is properly licensed.”

The issue with that initial ruling by the trial court is that it takes only a second or two to determine if someone is “properly licensed.” One, the person carries a license on their person, so all the officer needs to do is look at it. Second, it takes a few minutes of a computer search in most states to see if the license is valid.

Mr. Hicks was arrested solely based on someone’s incorrect report- likely because they were afraid of guns. All he was doing was showing his gun to someone in a parking lot and a bystander called the police. He was not “brandishing” it (apparently some people think showing and brandishing are the same- they are not). He had not robbed the store and was not acting in an aggressive manner. No crime was committed.

Police found him driving and arrested him based upon that initial report. But they lacked the original probable cause – in other words, he didn’t commit a crime. According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the officers must have a “particularized and objective basis for believing the person stopped has committed a crime.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme court ruled:

“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.”

Does a concealed carry permit negate all the other rights listed in the Constitution? The 4th Amendment guarantees protection against unwarranted search and seizures. It’s about time for the Supreme Court to make a determination on that issue as well as the other issues surrounding the Second Amendment.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children


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Faye Higbee

Faye Higbee is the columnist manager for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. She has been writing at Conservative Firing Line since 2013 as well. She is also a published author.

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