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Washington Court Discusses Sufficiency of Evidence of Possession in Firearms Cases

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2020 | Evidence

In many instances in which a person is convicted of a serious offense, in addition to being penalized via jail time or a fine, he or she will also lose the right to possess or own a firearm. As such, if a convicted felon is found with guns in his or her possession, it may result in additional charges. As discussed in a recent Washington case, the State may be able to obtain a conviction for a firearms charge by demonstrating constructive rather than actual possession. If you are a Washington resident currently charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated Washington gun crime defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the police received a tip that the defendant, who was a convicted felon, was in possession of firearms in violation of the law. As such, an officer visited the home where the defendant lived with his girlfriend. She allowed him to enter and search the premises and stated that while she owned guns, they were all locked in a safe. While she had the only key to the safe, she sometimes left it hanging in her bedroom. The officer observed the safe, which contained one more gun than reported and also saw a holster with a pistol in it hanging from a bedpost. The girlfriend admitted this was the defendant’s gun. The defendant was subsequently charged with six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, and following a trial was convicted on all counts. He then appealed.

Evidence Sufficient to Show Possession of a Firearm

On appeal, the defendant argued in part that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that he possessed the firearms within the gun safe, which were the basis for five of his charges. The court explained that in appeals challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, all evidence must be reviewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, but circumstantial and direct evidence should be afforded the same weight. When a party claims the evidence is insufficient, though, they admit the truth of the evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it.

The appellate court explained that the subject case involved constructive, rather than actual possession. Under Washington law, constructive possession is proven when the defendant had control and dominion over the firearms or the premises where the firearms were located. Neither the control nor the dominion needs to be exclusive; however, close proximity to the guns in and of itself is not adequate to prove constructive possession. Upon reviewing the evidence of the case, the court found it sufficient to sustain the defendant’s conviction. As such, it denied the appeal.

Speak to an Experienced Washington Attorney

Owning or possessing a gun in violation of the law can result in significant penalties. If you are accused of unlawful possession of a weapon, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney to help you formulate a defense. The experienced attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White are adept at helping criminal defendants fight for a fair outcome and if you retain our services we will work diligently on your behalf. We can be contacted via our online form or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.