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Washington Court Discusses the Prosecution’s Burden in Gun Crime Cases

On Behalf of | May 6, 2021 | Firearms

People convicted of felony crimes are often prohibited from owning weapons, and if they are stopped with guns in their possession, they can face criminal charges. Weapons crimes, like many offenses, often require the prosecution to establish the defendant’s intent. Thus, if the State cannot show that defendant knew it was illegal to possess a weapon, it should not be able to obtain a conviction for the crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington opinion in which the court explained what the prosecution must prove with regard to the defendant’s mental status to establish guilt in weapons cases. If you are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, it is prudent to meet with a Washington gun crime defense lawyer to assess your options.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is alleged that the defendant has a storied criminal past, including convictions for multiple felonies. In 2011, an anonymous source advised a federal agent that the defendant possessed weapons and was selling drugs out of his home. As the defendant was on probation, the agent contacted a State corrections officer who conducted a probation search of the defendant’s home. The search revealed two guns, ammunition, and other weapons paraphernalia.

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of federal law and other crimes. He was convicted on all counts, after which he filed numerous appeals.

Proving Intent in Gun Crime Cases

In the most recent appeal, the court found that an intervening decision issued by the Supreme Court required the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm to be vacated. In summary, the defendant argued that the evidence presented at trial was inadequate to show that he knew of his prohibited status, and therefore, his conviction could not be sustained. The court explained that the defendant’s argument arose out of the recent Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the term “knowingly” in the relevant federal statute required the prosecution to show that the defendant knew of his status to prove his guilt.

Additionally, the ruling stated that the court must instruct the jury that in order to find the defendant guilty, it must determine that he knew he was prohibited from possessing weapons at the time of the offense. The court ultimately agreed with the defendant and found that his conviction could not be upheld under the new standard. Thus, his conviction was vacated.

Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington

Many people with criminal histories are barred from possessing firearms, but if they are unaware of the prohibition, they may be able to avoid a conviction. If you are charged with a gun crime, it is critical to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced weapons charges defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome possible in your case. You can reach us via our online form or by calling 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.