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Court Explains the Government’s Burden of Proof in Washington Weapons Crime Cases

antique-gun-199x300Generally, people in Tacoma have the right to own and possess firearms. The right is not inalienable, however, and in certain situations may be taken away. For example, people convicted of felony offenses are typically barred from possessing firearms, and may face criminal charges if they are caught with a gun in their possession. As with all criminal offenses, to establish the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm the state must prove each element in order to demonstrate the defendant’s guilt. Recently, a Washington court issued a ruling in which it discussed the government’s burden of proof in weapons crime cases. If you are a Tacoma resident and are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to confer with a skilled Tacoma weapons charge defense attorney to assess your possible defenses.

History of the Case

 It is reported that the defendant was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition in violation of federal law. Prior to trial, the defendant filed numerous motions in limine, asking the court to preclude the government from introducing certain evidence at trial. The parties also presented a proposed stipulation regarding certain elements of the charged offenses. As the specifics of the stipulation were unclear, the court reserved judgment on the issue.

The Government’s Burden of Proof in Weapons Crime Cases

The court explained that the offenses that the defendant was charged with required the government to prove that the defendant was previously convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term that exceeds one year. The defendant indicated that he would stipulate at trial that he had at least one felony conviction that was punishable by imprisonment for more than a year prior to being charged with the subject crimes, however. The government accepted that stipulation and stated it would not attempt to introduce specifics of his felony conviction at trial.

The government proposed additional terms to the stipulation, though. Specifically, it sought to include the terms that the defendant knew that he was barred from possessing firearms and ammunition because of his felony conviction. The court noted that this exceeded the boundaries of the stipulation the defendant tendered, stating that the defendant only agreed to relieve the government of the burden of proving one element of the charged offenses. Thus, the government’s proposed terms were a counter-offer. As such, the court directed the parties to confer and agree on the specific terms of the stipulation.

Talk to an Assertive Tacoma Criminal Defense Lawyer

People who no longer have the right to own a weapon may be charged with crimes if a gun is found in their possession, but the government must meet a high burden of proof to obtain a conviction. If you are accused of a weapons offense, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your options. The assertive Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White are adept at helping people accused of crimes mount compelling defenses, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or by calling us at 253-203-1645 to set up a conference.

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