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Washington Court Discusses Proof of Unlawful Possession of Firearms

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2021 | Evidence

In Washington, people convicted of felony offenses typically lose the right to own firearms. Thus, if a person who is not permitted to own a gun is found with one in his or her possession, it may result in additional charges. As possession is a key element of many weapons offenses, if the State cannot produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate a defendant actually had a weapon, the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, a Washington court set forth an opinion discussing what evidence is needed to demonstrate possession of a weapon in a case in which the defendant argued his conviction was improper. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a knowledgeable Washington criminal defense lawyer to discuss your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Charges

It is reported that police were working with detectives to investigate drug crimes. They ultimately obtained a warrant to search the home of the defendant, and during their search, found a sawed-off shotgun and two other weapons. The defendant was subsequently charged with multiple crimes, including unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of an illegal firearm. He moved to suppress the evidence obtained in the search at trial, but his motion was denied. He was ultimately convicted of the charged offenses by a jury, after which he appealed.

Evidence Needed to Establish Possession of a Weapon

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the State failed to produce adequate evidence to convict him of unlawful possession of firearms. Specifically, he asserted that the evidence presented at trial merely showed that he was in the proximity of guns seized by law enforcement. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed his conviction.

The court explained that a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence is governed by a very deferential standard of review. In other words, if the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the state would lead a rational person to find the essential elements of the crime, it will be deemed adequate.

In the subject case, the court found that the evidence as a whole provided a substantial basis for the conclusion that the defendant was in constructive possession of the guns in question. The court explained that constructive possession need not be exclusive. Evidence that other people’s fingerprints were on the guns or that another person lived in the basement where the guns were found merely suggested that someone else used them as well. Thus, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington

People who are not legally permitted to own guns may face weapons charges even if they are not physically caught with a firearm. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is advisable to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The dedicated Washington criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal result available under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our online form or by calling 253-363-8662 to set up a meeting.