Court Discusses Evidence Needed to Show Unlawful Firearm Possession in Washington

When a person is convicted of a crime in Washington, in addition to any sentence or fines imposed following the conviction, the person may lose the right to possess a firearm. Thus, if the person is subsequently found to be in possession of a firearm he or she may be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. A Washington court of appeals recently discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of possession, in a case in which it overturned a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. If you were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, you should consult a capable Washington criminal defense attorney proficient in handling firearm cases to discuss what evidence the State may introduce against you.

Discovery of the Firearm

Reportedly, the defendant was under Department of Corrections supervision. The terms of his supervision required him to provide a valid address. The defendant reported he was living with his girlfriend, after which the defendant’s supervising community corrections officer conducted a routine home search. The father of the defendant’s girlfriend was the only person home during the search and confirmed that the defendant had recently moved into the home. Additionally, there was clothing that appeared to belong to a man throughout the home, including clothing the defendant had been observed wearing. During the search, the officer found a firearm in the living room. DNA testing revealed that the defendant’s fingerprint was on the firearm. The defendant was subsequently charged with and found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Sufficiency of Evidence of Possession of a Firearm

A person is guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm if he or she has a firearm in his or her possession, following a conviction of any serious offense. Under Washington law, possession can be actual or constructive. Constructive possession can be shown by demonstrating that the defendant had control and dominion over the firearm or over the premises where the firearm was found. The court will assess the entirety of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the firearm to determine whether the defendant had dominion and control, and no single factor is determinative. Evidence that a defendant had personal possessions at the premises, or stayed there temporarily, is insufficient to show dominion and control.

Here, the court noted that the defendant had indicated the subject premises was his place of residence. Further, he had previously been observed at that location, and his clothing was observed there. Thus, in viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State, the court found that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that the defendant had dominion and control over the premises. As such, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Consult a Trusted Washington Weapons Charge Defense Attorney

If you are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, you should consult a trusted Washington weapons charge defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case and your available defenses.  The attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith and White will work tirelessly to help you preclude any evidence the State should not be permitted to introduce and will help you to develop strong arguments in favor of your desired result. We can be contacted at 253-203-1645 or through the online form to set up a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Court Reviews Right to a Speedy Trial Under Washington and Federal Law, January 15, 2019, The Law Offices of Smith & White Blog

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