Many people have lost the right to possess a firearm due to criminal convictions. Not only may convictions in Washington result in the loss of firearm rights, but in some instances, so may convictions in other states. In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed when an out of state conviction may be considered a predicate offense for an unlawful possession of a firearm charge. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges that you unlawfully possessed a firearm, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime attorney regarding what you can do to protect your rights.
The Defendant’s Charges and Prior Offense
It is reported that the defendant was charged with murder in the second degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, arising out of an incident in which he shot an acquaintance in the face. He was convicted on both charges, after which he appealed. Regarding the firearm charge, the defendant argued that the California conviction that served as the predicate offense for the charge was not equal to a felony under Washington law, and therefore, the charge and conviction were improper. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court ruling.
When an Out of State Conviction Constitutes a Predicate Offense
Under Washington law, a person is guilty of unlawfully possessing a firearm if he or she controls or possesses a firearm, and he or she has previously been convicted of a felony in Washington or elsewhere. When the courts review out of state convictions for firearm offenses, they compare them to comparable offenses and sentences in Washington, to determine if they meet the criteria to be considered a predicate offense. The main inquiry in assessing an out of state conviction is whether the defendant would have been convicted under Washington law for engaging in the same conduct that resulted in the conviction. Thus, the court will compare the elements of the out of state crime to the elements of a similar Washington crime, to evaluate whether they are sufficiently similar.