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Washington Court Explains Grounds for Imposing Multiple-Firearms Enhancements

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2021 | Evidence

In Washington, people convicted of felonies are often barred from owning or possessing firearms. As such, if the police find guns in the possession of a convicted felon, it can lead to criminal charges and sentence enhancements. Further, the penalties can increase with the number of weapons found. Recently, a Washington court issued an opinion explaining the grounds for imposing multiple firearms enhancements in criminal cases, in a matter in which the defendant appealed his sentence. If you are accused of a weapons crime, it is advisable to meet with a Washington weapons charges defense lawyer regarding your potential defenses.

The Defendant’s Arrest, Trial, and Sentencing

It is reported that a confidential informant advised the police that the defendant, a convicted felon on parole, possessed two weapons: a rifle and a shotgun. He sold the weapons to an undercover officer the following day. Approximately three months later, he was indicted on an unlawful possession of a firearm charge, and was arrested the following day. Officers searched his residence and found a revolver. They searched his storage unit as well and found two more guns.

Allegedly, the defendant entered a guilty plea. The pre-sentence report recommended, among other things, a level-two enhancement because the crime involved five firearms. The enhancement was applied, after which the defendant appealed.

Grounds for Imposing Multiple-Firearms Enhancements

On appeal, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence. The defendant argued that the trial court erred in imposing a multiple firearm enhancement because the three guns found during the searches of his properties were not adequately linked to the earlier weapons possessions out of which his charge arose. Specifically, he noted there was an eleven-week lapse in between the acts involving the first two weapons and the police finding the three other weapons.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument. First, it noted that the defendant failed to preserve the issue by objecting at the trial level, and thus it was subject to a plain error standard of review. The court explained, though, that the argument failed under any level of scrutiny. Specifically, under the applicable law, the enhancement is merited if the underlying offense involved the unlawful possession of three to seven firearms.

The court noted that “offense” meant not only the conviction but also any relevant conduct, which included all omissions and acts committed or willfully caused by the defendant if they were part of the same common scheme, course of conduct, or plan as the offense for which the defendant was convicted. Here, the court found that the defendant’s unlawful possession of the three firearms that were found during the searches were part of the same plan or scheme out of which the underlying charges and conviction arose, namely possessing firearms unlawfully. Thus, the court affirmed his sentence.

Meet with a Trusted Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with unlawful possession of firearms may face significant penalties. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted Washington weapons charges defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible in your case. You can reach us through our online form or by calling 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.