Court Discusses Prior Serious Offense Conviction in Washington Firearm Cases

Under Washington law, a person can be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm if the person has previously been convicted of a serious crime and he or she possesses or owns a firearm. Thus, one of the elements the State must prove is a prior conviction for a serious offense. Recently, in a case ruled on by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, the court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence of a predicate conviction in an unlawful firearm possession case. If you live in Washington and are faced with charges of unlawful firearm possession it is crucial to engage and assertive Washington weapons charge defense attorney to fight to help you retain your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the police responded to reports of a fight at the defendant’s home. When the police arrived, the defendant admitted he had guns in his house. The defendant then gave the police a rifle. The police subsequently conducted a criminal history check on the defendant, which revealed the defendant had previously been convicted of felonies in Georgia, that prohibited him from possessing firearms.

It is reported the police then obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home. During the search, they recovered a rifle. The defendant denied, however, that he had previously been convicted of crimes in Georgia, stating that it was his brother, not him, who was convicted. The defendant was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and following a trial, was convicted on all counts. He subsequently appealed, arguing the State failed to prove he had prior felony convictions.

Evidence of a Predicate Felony Conviction

Under Washington law, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has a constitutionally valid serious offense conviction to prove a defendant is guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm. The defendant can challenge the State’s evidence by arguing that the predicate conviction was not constitutionally valid. In proving this defense, the defendant bears the burden of setting forth a fact-specific argument showing the constitutional error in his or her prior conviction. If the defendant meets this burden, the State must then prove the prior conviction was constitutionally sound.

Here, the court noted that the State presented evidence that the defendant was convicted by guilty plea of several felonies, including armed robbery, in Georgia. The State also presented evidence that the fingerprints of the person convicted in Georgia matched those of the defendant. The court stated that it was undisputed that armed robbery in Georgia is a serious offense as defined under Washington law.

The defendant argued that his guilty plea entered in his prior conviction was not made knowingly and voluntarily and therefore was not valid. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that the defendant did not offer any facts in support of his position, and failed to provide the plea document. Thus, the court affirmed his conviction.

Meet with a Skilled Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you face charges of unlawful possession of a firearm it is essential to meet with a skilled Washington weapons charge defense attorney regarding your case and your potential defenses. The diligent attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith & White will aggressively pursue the best possible outcome under the circumstances surrounding your charges. We can be reached through the form online or at  253-203-1645 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.

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