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Articles Posted in Firearms

People convicted of felonies often lose the right to own weapons, and the mere act of possessing a firearm can result in significant penalties. The State must prove each element of a charged firearm offense through competent evidence, though, and if it cannot, it should not be able to obtain a conviction. Recently, a Washington court assessed what constitutes sufficient proof of possession of a real firearm, in an opinion arising out of an appeal of an unlawful possession conviction. If you are accused of illegally owning a gun, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled Washington weapons charge defense attorney to assess your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that a police officer approached a car that was parked in a closed parking lot. There were two people sitting in the front seats, and the defendant was sitting alone in the back seat. The officer noticed a semiautomatic weapon on the floor of the car by the defendant’s feet. The defendant would not keep his hands in view, after which he was removed from the car. The officer obtained consent to search the vehicle and retrieved the gun.

Allegedly, he then obtained a warrant and found a holster for the gun under a blanket in the backseat, illicit substances, and paraphernalia related to the sale of illegal drugs. The defendant was charged with multiple gun and drug crimes. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing in part that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was in possession of an actual firearm.

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Firearm convictions can result in the loss of significant liberties. As with any criminal matter, though, the State must prove each element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction, and if it does not, it may constitute a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Recently, a Washington state court issued a ruling in which it explained what is considered adequate evidence to establish unlawful possession of a firearm in a case in which the defendant sought relief from personal restraint following convictions for multiple crimes. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is advisable to meet with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

The Defendant’s Allegations

It is reported that in 2017, the defendant was convicted of three counts of assault and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. Personal restraint was imposed following his convictions. In 2020, the defendant sought relief from his personal restraint, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove he was guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and that his conviction and the firearm enhancements on his assault convictions violated his protections against double jeopardy. The court ultimately rejected the defendant’s arguments and denied his request for relief.

Evidence Sufficient to Establish Guilt in Gun Crime Cases

First, the court discussed the defendant’s allegations that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt with regard to the firearm charge. The court explained that evidence in criminal cases is sufficient to prove culpability if, after it is viewed in the light most favorable to the State, any rational factfinder could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of a crime were present.

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In Washington, some crimes have alternative means of commission. In other words, a person may be found guilty of such a crime for engaging in more than one type of activity. Simply because there are multiple ways an offense may be committed does not mean the State’s burden is lessened. Rather, as demonstrated in a recent Washington gun crime case, jury unanimity is required to convict a person of theft of a firearm when there is inadequate evidence to support one of the means of commission. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is advisable to meet with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

The Alleged Theft

It is reported that the defendant was at the home of his minor girlfriend when the home was visited by a neighbor who brought a bottle of liquor. The defendant and the neighbor consumed some of the alcohol, and the defendant, his girlfriend, and the neighbor went outside so that the girlfriend could shoot the neighbor’s rifle. The neighbor and the defendant became involved in an altercation, and the defendant hit the neighbor in the head with the rifle. The girlfriend’s mother called 911, after which the defendant took the gun and ran into the woods.

Allegedly, when the police arrived, they saw the defendant running away but did not apprehend him. Over the next few days, the defendant stored the gun in his home and took it with him outside. The police found the weapon during a search of the defendant’s home. He was charged with and convicted of multiple crimes, including theft of a firearm. He appealed his convicted as to the theft charge, arguing that because the court failed to instruct the jury regarding unanimity, and the State did not present sufficient evidence of two of the three means of committing the crime, his conviction must be reversed.

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In Washington, when a person is charged with a weapons crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed each element of the offense. Typically, the prosecution will rely on circumstantial evidence, such as statements regarding the defendant’s whereabouts or discussions with the defendant regarding the weapons in order to prove its case. Thus, if a defendant can attack the validity of the prosecution’s evidence, it may weaken its case, but such efforts are not always successful. This was demonstrated in a recent Washington case in which the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for firearm-related offenses despite the defendant’s arguments that the prosecution’s evidence should have been precluded at trial. If you are charged with unlawfully owning or possessing a firearm, it is advisable to speak with a skillful Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm as well as with being a felon in possession of ammunition, both of which were federal crimes. Following his trial, he was convicted by a jury. He then appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence found during a search of his home and in admitting evidence of his prior bad acts. The appellate court denied the defendant’s appeal, affirming his conviction.

Evidence Admissible at a Trial for Weapons Charges

First, the court explained that the officer’s entry into the defendant’s home was lawful as it was done in response to a 911 call. Further, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the officer did not have authority to enter his home or search the surrounding hillside for weapons, and that the evidence found during the search should be suppressed.

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It is well-established under state and federal law that a person accused of a crime cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements. In some instances, though, a criminal defendant may be coerced into making a statement that can be used against them, due to a lack of awareness regarding his or her rights. In a recent Washington case in which the defendant was accused of domestic violence assault with a firearm, the court discussed when an incriminating statement should be suppressed as an involuntary admission. If you live in Washington and are accused of committing a weapons offense, it is advisable to confer with a skilled Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and another woman were both romantically involved with the victim, but unaware of the existence of one another. They both became pregnant, after which the defendant broke up with the victim. The other woman learned that the defendant was also expecting the victim’s child, and reached out to the defendant. The two women then confronted the victim, and the victim testified that the defendant shot him in the leg.

Allegedly, the defendant was arrested three weeks later and transported to jail. She was advised of her Miranda rights and right to counsel, after which she stated she wished to make a statement. She was reminded of her right against self-incrimination and right to counsel but nonetheless admitted to participating in the shooting. She was then charged with first-degree assault with a firearm. She was convicted by a jury, after which she appealed, alleging in part that the statement she made in jail was coerced.

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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.

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Typically, in a Washington criminal trial, the prosecution is limited to introducing evidence that would persuade a judge or jury that the defendant committed the charged offense. As such, any evidence that is unrelated to the underlying crimes, and that would be prejudicial to the defendant may be precluded. For example, the prosecution cannot typically refer to uncharged crimes the defendant may have committed, as discussed in a recent Washington weapons charges case. If you live in Washington and are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Washington weapons crime defense attorney to discuss what evidence the prosecution may be permitted to introduce against you at trial.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant had a close relationship with a female friend that lived with a boyfriend and a child she had with the boyfriend. One evening, the boyfriend showed the defendant multiple guns that he owned and kept in a gun safe. The following morning, the defendant, who suffered from several mental illnesses, became convinced that the boyfriend had molested the child and advised his friend that they needed to take the guns and child and leave the apartment.

Allegedly, the friend dismissed the defendant’s allegations, but he persisted, after which they became involved in a physical altercation. The friend called the police, and when the police arrived, they found the defendant outside of the apartment building with a bag containing two guns. The defendant was charged with two counts of firearm theft and second-degree assault. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed on several grounds.

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It is common knowledge that when a person is charged with a crime, they cannot be forced to make self-incriminating statements. Many people do not understand the nuances of the right against self-incrimination, however, or when it applies, as demonstrated in a recent case in which the defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm was upheld, in part because of statements the defendant made to police prior to his arrest. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Washington weapons charge defense attorney regarding your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with theft of a firearm and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. Before the trial commenced, the defendant filed a motion to suppress statements he made to police officers prior to his arrest, on the grounds that he was not advised of his Miranda rights, his statements were involuntary, and he was in the custody of the police. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the argument that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. After reviewing the facts of the case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Right Against Self-Incrimination

Upon review, the appellate court found that the defendant was not in police custody at the time he made his incriminating statements, and therefore, the trial court properly denied his motion to suppress. The appellate court explained that in determining whether a suspect is in police custody, the court will assess whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would feel as if his or her freedom was impaired to the degree normally associated with an arrest. The court went on to state that an interrogation in terms of Miranda rights does not only refer to express questioning but also to any actions or words on behalf of the police that the police understand are reasonably likely to result in an incriminating statement.

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In many instances in which a person is convicted of a crime, an element of the person’s sentence will be a prohibition against owning or possessing firearms. If the court does not orally advise the defendant of all of the elements of his or her sentence, however, the defendant may have grounds to object to the sentence. In a recent case decided by a Washington appellate court, the court explained the requirements for imposing a firearm restriction on a criminal defendant. If you were recently charged with a felony, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney regarding what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of the failure to register as a sex offender. During his sentencing hearing, the court imposed a sentence within the standard range. Although the sentence contained a provision stating that the defendant could not possess a firearm, the judgment did not orally pronounce that portion of the sentence during the hearing. Thus, the defendant appealed his sentence to the extent it prohibited him from possessing a firearm.

Firearm Restrictions Under Washington Law

On appeal, the State argued that although the court failed to orally advise the defendant that he was not permitted to own or possess a firearm, the defendant had been convicted of six prior felonies, and was aware that a felony conviction carried a firearm prohibition, and that it was a waste of judicial economy and resources to require the court to orally advise him of the prohibition. The appellate court disagreed, finding that nothing in the record indicated that the defendant had ever been orally advised that he did not have the right to possess a firearm, and stated it was not permitted to disregard the defendant’s rights in the interest of judicial economy.

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In many instances in which a defendant is charged with a domestic violence crime, he or she will enter into a plea agreement with the State. Although the court is not required to impose the sentence recommended by the State pursuant to a plea agreement, the State cannot actively undercut the agreement by offering evidence that would persuade the court to disregard the agreement. Recently, in a domestic violence case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, the court discussed what constitutes a breach of a plea agreement. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Tacoma domestic violence attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the body of an 18-year-old man was found near a campground, after which the defendant was identified as a suspect. The victim and the defendant had been involved in a relationship in which the victim took the role of a slave or submissive. Their relationship was volatile, and the defendant exercised a great deal of control over the victim. The defendant had an extensive criminal history as well. The defendant and victim were traveling with a friend the defendant met in prison when the defendant reportedly shot the victim numerous times. The victim died from his wounds.

It is reported that the State charged the defendant murder in the first degree, and domestic violence while armed with a firearm. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State recommended that the defendant be sentenced to 240 months in prison. The court sentenced the defendant to 295 months in prison, however, after which the defendant appealed, arguing that the State breached the plea agreement.

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