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Washington Court Analyzes Sufficiency of Evidence in Weapons Charge Cases

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2019 | Evidence

Although in some cases a person will be arrested during the commission of a crime, in many cases a person will be arrested after the alleged crime is committed, based on circumstantial evidence. While circumstantial evidence is admissible to prove guilt, the State must nonetheless produce sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. Recently, a Washington appellate court analyzed the sufficiency of the evidence, in a case in which the defendant was convicted of unlawful possession and theft of a firearm. If you are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or any other weapons charge it is essential to retain a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney to develop persuasive arguments in your defense.

Factual Background

It is reported that the victim, a 79-year-old man owned over two dozen guns that he stored in a locked gun cabinet. The victim’s neighbor noticed that a female acquaintance visited the victim on occasion. On a day in June 2017, the victim left the female acquaintance alone at the home. The neighbor then observed the defendant park a red minivan near the victim’s home, and subsequently run out of the back of the home with a large bundle. The neighbor called the police, who detained the defendant, and entered the home and observed several guns lying on the bed.

Allegedly, the victim returned home during the investigation but refused to enter the home and inspect his gun cabinet. The police released the defendant, but after the victim entered his home and realized several guns were missing, they located and arrested the defendant, who had a single round of ammunition in his pocket. Upon searching the defendant’s minivan, the police found a .22-caliber pistol, ammunition, and several gun cleaning supplies. The defendant was charged with and convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and theft of a firearm. He appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support either conviction.

Sufficiency of Evidence in Firearm Cases

On appeal, the court found there was sufficient evidence to uphold both convictions. The court stated that a person is guilty of theft of a firearm if he or steals any firearm and noted that the serial number and make and model of a gun are not elements of theft of a firearm. The State was nonetheless required to prove such identifying features beyond a reasonable doubt in the subject case, however, based on their inclusion in the jury instructions regarding the theft of a firearm charge. The court found that the State met this burden, as there was substantial evidence in support of a conviction.

The court noted, however, the identifying information was not included in the jury instructions as to the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. Therefore, the State was only required to prove that the defendant possessed a firearm and did not need to prove what particular firearm he possessed. As such, the court upheld the defendant’s conviction, despite the fact that the defendant was charged with possession of a .22-caliber revolver but was convicted due to the possession of a .22-caliber pistol.

Discuss your Charges with a Trusted Washington Weapons Charge Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a weapons crime based on circumstantial evidence you should discuss your charges and your available defenses with a trusted Washington weapons charge defense attorney.   The capable criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will work tirelessly to help you fight to protect your rights. You can contact us at 253-363-8662 or through the online form to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.