Many people who have previous convictions have lost the right to own a firearm. Thus, a person subject to firearm restrictions may be convicted of a crime if the State can prove that the person willfully possessed a weapon. In a recent Washington appellate case, the court discussed what evidence the State must produce to obtain a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. If you reside in Washington and are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon or any other firearms charges, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Washington gun crime attorney to discuss what evidence may be used against you.
Factual and Procedural History
Allegedly, police officers searched the home of the defendant pursuant to a search warrant that covered narcotics and firearms. The officers asked the defendant if there were any firearms in the home. He replied that there were, indicating that there were .380 and .45 caliber guns. During the search, the officers found both guns. The defendant was transported to the police station, where he advised the police of a storage unit that held additional guns. The police obtained a warrant to search the unit, and during the subsequent search, they found six firearms. The defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including two counts of possession of a stolen firearm and eight counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.
It is reported that during the trial, the court advised the jury that for each count of unlawful possession, the jury must find that the defendant knowingly had a firearm, and provided the serial number, make, and caliber of each firearm. The jury found the defendant guilty of all counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, and one possession of a stolen firearm count. The defendant appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertions that the State failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the firearms and that the State was required to prove that he knew the serial number of each firearm to obtain a conviction.
Sufficiency of Evidence of Possession of a Firearm
The defendant argued that pursuant to the jury instructions, the State was required to prove that the defendant knew the serial number of each gun he was charged with possessing. The defendant further argued that because the State did not offer such proof, the defendant should not have been convicted. The court rejected this argument, finding that the State’s burden of proof was merely to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was knowingly in possession of each firearm. The court explained that in examining whether a person has control and dominion over something, it must examine the totality of the circumstances. Factors assessed include whether a person has the capability of actually possessing the object, and the proximity of the person to the object. In the subject case, the court found that the State produced evidence sufficient to meet its burden of proof. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Speak with a Skillful Weapons Charges Defense Attorney
If you live in Washington and are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm or another weapon-related offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a skillful Washington weapons crime attorney regarding your potential defenses. The capable criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White are adept at assisting people charged with crimes in the pursuit of a just outcome, and we will zealously advocate on your behalf. You can reach us at 253-363-8662 or via our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.