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By:  Aidan F. Smith                                                                  

The Baltimore County Police Department makes a regular practice of obtaining lists of people who have engaged in target practice at local firearms ranges.  The police department then compares the list of individuals who have engaged in target practice against the list of people who are prohibited from possessing firearms.  If the Baltimore County Police Department determines that someone who is prohibited from possessing a firearm, has shot a weapon, even once at a firing range, they will contact this person and engage in what they refer to as a ruse interview.

During these ruse interviews the Baltimore County Police Department will contact the person who engaged in target practice and tell them that firearms have been stolen from the firearms range where they engaged in target practice.  The person that has been contacted by the Baltimore County Police, will almost always eagerly help the law enforcement official and say that when they were at the shooting range the supposedly stolen gun was present and that they fired this firearm.  This presents a serious problem, because unbeknownst to the person who is being interviewed, the police officer only wants their suspect to admit that they had a firearm in their hand.

At this point the police have everything they need to charge this otherwise law abiding citizen with illegal possession of a firearm.  The person who is charged almost never has any idea that they were engaging in any illegal activity, and only wanted to be helpful to the law enforcement officers that contacted them.

Several weeks after the interviews are conducted these people are charged with very serious firearms felonies who could carry a mandatory five year term of incarceration.

As a practical matter, even though individuals who commit these crimes are subject to a mandatory five year term of incarceration, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office generally does not seek this mandatory five year term of incarceration for individuals who merely shot a gun once at a firing range, and do not own any firearms.  However, due to the potential for five years of incarceration, almost no one is willing to test whether these police tactics and charging documents are legal.

If you have ever been convicted of any crime, you should call an attorney to determine whether you are legally allowed to possess a firearm, or engage in any form of target practice.

Aidan Smith is an attorney at Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law).  Aidan focuses his practice on general litigation, criminal defense and family law matters.  His ability to listen to his clients, assess their issues and concerns and use his knowledge and experience of the criminal and civil judicial systems to help them resolve their situations has been recognized and praised by many of his clients.  Aidan can be reached by phone at 410-339-6764 and by email at