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.