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Washington Court Assesses Validity of Sentence Imposing Firearm Prohibition

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.

The court stated that a person who is convicted of a felony loses the right to own a firearm. Further, the court explained that the failure to register as a sex offender in Washington State or pursuant to laws set forth by another state is a felony. Thus, at the time of the conviction, the court must notify the person convicted both in writing and orally, that the person must immediately surrender any concealed firearms and that the person is not permitted to possess a firearm.

In the subject case, the court pointed out that the defendant was convicted of a felony, namely the failure to register as a sex offender, and although the court advised the defendant in writing that he could not possess guns, it was still required to provide the defendant with oral notice as well. Thus, the court remanded the case for resentencing.

Speak with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a felony or firearms offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Washington gun crime defense attorney regarding your possible defenses. The knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White have the skills and experience needed to assist you in the pursuit of a favorable outcome. You can contact us by calling 253-203-1645 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.

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