“The judge tried to tell me that telling the truth messed me up, my life up and the cop said the same thing,” Shaneen Allen said. (Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)
A Superior Court judge refused to go easy on a Philadelphia mother of two facing felony gun charges after she unintentionally broke the law by crossing state lines into New Jersey with her legally-owned firearm.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the decision to refuse to drop the charges originally came from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Judge Michael Donio reiterated the decision by dismissing the same motion Tuesday. Had the charges been dropped, 27-year-old Shaneen Allen, who has no prior criminal record, could have avoided jail time by entering the state’s pretrial intervention program.
As it currently stands, however, Allen is facing a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison for, what she says, was an honest mistake.
After being the victim of a robbery on two separate occasions, Allen who also works late at night, decided to purchase a gun and get her concealed carry permit. She took the necessary steps for legal gun ownership in her home state, but what she failed to learn was the knowledge of concealed carry reciprocity. Allen was unaware that her Pennsylvania-issued concealed carry permit was not valid in the state of New Jersey.
While driving to Atlantic City for her son’s birthday party, Allen was stopped on a New Jersey expressway for a minor traffic violation. When the trooper made contact with her, she gladly handed over her concealed carry permit with her driver’s license and told the officer she had a .38-caliber Bersa Thunder in her purse.
Allen now faces charges for unlawful possession of a weapon, a second-degree felony, and possession of hollow-point bullets.
Allen, with tear-filled eyes, stated after the proceeding, “They just threw out the fact that I was being honest and honestly answered the police officer about having a gun. I don’t understand it.”
Nonetheless, Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Hay said regardless of the circumstances surrounding the case, it is being used as a sort of example, a “deterrent,” against this type of activity in the future. In addition, Hay said Allen was not an eligible candidate for the intervention program because the charges were “too serious to warrant divergence.”
Evan Nappen, an attorney out of New Jersey who specializes in gun law and is representing Allen, believes the punishment doesn’t fit the crime and will not stop fighting for her.
“She really has nothing to lose by going to trial at this point,” Nappen said. “This is someone who should not be turned into a felon and sent to state prison and have her life destroyed because she made a mistake and committed a victimless crime.”
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