Reciprocity Mix-Up Leads to Felony Charges for Philadelphia Mom

Shaneen Allen and Evan Nappen
Shaneen Allen and Attorney Evan Nappen

Charlotte, NC –-( On Tuesday August 5th 2014, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio declined to dismiss a case for unlawful possession of a firearm against Philadelphia resident Shaneen Allen.

Allen was arrested during a traffic stop last October after she volunteered to the officer that she had a firearm in her car.  She mistakenly believed her Pennsylvania license to carry firearms was valid in New Jersey.  This was hardly an unreasonable assumption, considering that Pennsylvania concealed carry licensees can lawfully carry in over 30 other states.

Nevertheless, Judge Donio sided with prosecutors in deciding that Allen was not covered by a 180-day gun amnesty period for the surrender of firearms in New Jersey that happened to be occurring at the time of her arrest.  The judge also refused to overrule the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s decision to deny Allen a pre-trial intervention program that could have helped her avoid a criminal conviction.

New Jersey offers first-time offenders the opportunity to avoid criminal adjudications through the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI).  The stated purpose of PTI is to “render early rehabilitative services, when such services can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior.”  Allen is a 27-year-old mother of two with no criminal record who was employed as a healthcare worker at the time of her arrest.  She obtained her concealed carry permit after she herself was twice the victim of robbery.  The Atlantic County prosecutor has not alleged Allen possessed the firearm for criminal purposes or with evil intent.  Indeed, the Atlantic County PTI Director agreed to accept Allen into the PTI program.

Nevertheless, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office refused to grant Allen’s request for PTI.  Instead, they are prosecuting her for a felony which is punishable by a minimum of three years in prison, with no chance for parole.  The maximum potential sentence is 10 years imprisonment.  According to Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Hay, Allen’s prosecution could serve as a “deterrent,” and the alleged offense was “too serious to warrant divergence” into PTI.

Allen is now planning on going to trial, which is scheduled for October 6th 2014.  Her attorney, Evan Nappen, has indicated that Allen plans to make a defense based on ignorance or mistake of law.  Failing that, Allen would have to rely on jurors to recognize the injustice of her prosecution, or if found guilty, on Governor Chris Christie (R) to pardon her or commute her sentence.  Christie had previously intervened in the case of Brian Aitken, who was also prosecuted on a technical violation of a gun control statute and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Following the commutation of Aitken’s sentence, Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of NRA-ILA, emphasized the need for the New Jersey Legislature to revisit the state’s Draconian firearm regulations:  “There is a serious need to reform New Jersey’s gun laws so that the full weight of the state’s law enforcement and legal system falls squarely on the shoulders of criminals, not on people like Brian Aitken.”  Reacting to these repeated injustices, Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12) has introduced a bill that would give courts more options in adjudicating these types of gun cases.

NRA-backed legislation is also pending in Congress that would protect travelers who found themselves in the same circumstances as Shaneen Allen.  The Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2013 (H.R. 2959) would require states that issue permits to their own residents (as does New Jersey, at least in limited cases) to provide full faith and credit to concealed carry permits issued by other states (please see related story).  Allen’s case exemplifies why this law is needed and the type of person it is designed to protect.  The Second Amendment right to bear arms means little in today’s increasingly mobile society when a person who has fully complied with the laws of her home state for carrying firearms becomes a felon simply for crossing a state boundary.

Legal theorists often described laws as fitting into one of two categories: malum in se or malum prohibitum.  The distinction between the two was explained by the North Carolina Supreme Court in the 1905 case of State v. Horton:  “An offense malum in se is properly defined as one which is naturally evil as adjudged by the sense of a civilized community, whereas an act malum prohibitum is wrong only because made so by statute.”  Laws that treat all carrying of firearms as presumptively criminal, without proof of bad intent, are malum prohibitum.  The fact that the conduct which led to Allen’s arrest would have been legal in over two-thirds of U.S. states makes New Jersey an outlier amongst the “civilized community” of the rest of the nation.

Allen’s case illustrates an essential truth of gun control.  No matter how its proponents attempt to justify it under the guise of “violence prevention,” “public safety,” or even “public health,” its primary purpose is to promote a social and political agenda.  The same ruthless despotism that results in school officials berating a harmless child for a “zero tolerance” infraction until the boy wets his pants is reflected here in the attitude of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.  Shaneen Allen caused no harm.  By all accounts, she acted in good faith, unaware she was violating an unusual and totally arbitrary prohibition.  Yet all that is irrelevant to the State of New Jersey, which is willing to ruin not just her life, but the life of her two young children, to demonstrate just how unwelcome firearms are in the state.

Decency and justice have so far failed Shaneen Allen.  Let’s hope the jury system – or executive clemency, if necessary – succeed where common sense and prosecutorial discretion have failed.

Those wishing to donate to Shaneen Allen’s legal defense fund may visit this link to contribute:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Evie Humbel

Don’t wear seat belts lest you drown in your own urine?

Kermit Guyon

A powerful share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit evaluation on this. And he in reality purchased me breakfast as a result of I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you turn out to be expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more particulars? It is highly useful for me. Large thumb up for this weblog post!


Perhaps “infringed” was too big a word for the lib-progs.
Need some jury nullification.
Need some appeals.
REALLY need a judge recall.


@LibertyChick “According to one site, America has one prison rated the most violent in the world, and according to another we have 5 prisons rated among the most violent in the world. As we lecture other countries on humanity.” That’s a very stupid comment. The vast majority of violence in US prisons is being commited by the inmates, not the people who run them or the American public.

DR. Carl

Jury Nullification! Ignore the instructions of the judge who says “you must convict if”…. If the law is unjust, or not Constitutionally sound, the law must be judged, not the person.


@tex, comments are not deleted unless they are spam or violate the ad hominem policy of the ammoland. Ray your free to speak your mind. just dont use juicy curse words that get trapped by the bad language filter. And don’t put up comments that violate the ad hominen policy and you should see your comment posted automatically.


Gang bangers would be out in under 24 hours but they locked up a model citizen for over a month.

This case will end up going to the US Supreme Court.

Do not incriminate yourself, use the right to remain silent.


,you weren’t deleted. j/k I know what you mean. On most topics if I wrote what I really wanted it would never be posted or would be deleted.

ray hampton

IF I leave a comment , it will only be deleted


While sad and I agree a national system like how driver’s licenses are honored is needed. This woman had to be brain dead not to know that NJ, NYC, DC have the dont honor CCW permits or allow carry in general.

Its her responsibility to know the gun regulations where you carry. With the easy acess to sites like usacarry and apps like legalheat its quick to get information on the CCW laws for every state.


This sort of shakedown is happening all across the nation. A handful of states have such unusally restrictive laws and any mishap by responsible citizens can lead to taking out a 2nd mortgage just to eventually extract oneself from the legal quicksand. If your representative were interested in freedom, it’d only take a few simple laws to prevent this large scale shakedown of the innocent.

Al Schmidt

When will Judges follow the Constitution? Concealed carry laws are illegal as well as all gun laws that in anyway affect law abiding citizens. The Bill of Rights does not give us any rights, it is only to protect the rights given to us by our Creator. She had to pass a F.B.I. background check, which is also illegal. The cop that arrested her is the one that should be put in jail along with the prosecutor and the judge that did not dismiss the case. They are the ones the broke the supreme law of this country, not her!… Read more »


Yet another New Jersey born travesty of justice and flagrant waste of taxpayer money and paid for resources. When will this come to an end? New Jersey resident should be major pissed off at this kind of crap!


This is appalling. There is no common sense to this. How much will this cost the tax payers in NJ to prosecute this and potentially imprison her for just not knowing the law of a state she doesn’t live in. The land of the free has the highest incarceration rate of every country in the world, tied with one African country (707 per 100,000 citizens. And look how they treat prisoners in America: According to one site, America has one prison rated the most violent in the world, and according to another we have 5 prisons rated among the… Read more »


“…its primary purpose is to promote a social and political agenda”. And what might that agenda be? My guess: to prevent the middle class from protecting itself from marauding and armed inner city thugs – Holder’s “peeps”.


NJ & its police are as close to a storm trooper state as you can get. Every single LEO that puts on a badge and uniform swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That document trumps any and all State and local laws and those officers have a solemn duty to refuse to obey ANY illegal law. Instead they consider themselves “the chosen few”, better than any others, and the only ones capable of owning, carrying and using firearms. Anyone else is to be harassed, intimidated and if that fails, incarcerated. They are a disgrace to that badge… Read more »

Dr. Strangelove

Where are the Justice Brothers, Al and Jesse? Why isn’t the NAALCP screaming “Racism!”? She must be a conservative and not worthy of their attention.


Now if a politician needed a permit to speak on controversial subjects they would be screaming infringement of my 1st amendment rights, So why the difference on the 2nd. Our founding fathers carried everywhere not only for hunting but self defense and defense of others.


This whole thing makes me sick ! One thing that CCW instructors really to need to pound into their students heads is always check carry laws in states you plan to go.(whether they are constitutional laws or not) ! Blubber butt Christie could help this girl if he wanted but he won’t !