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New York Court Affirms Defendant’s Conviction for Constructively Possessing a Firearm

As New York’s premier second amendment lawyers we closely monitor cases that may affect the ability of our client’s to lawfully be in possession of firearms and cases that affect our ability to fight gun charges.  Late last year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York gun possession case discussing the concept of constructive possession. Constructive possession is a legal fiction by which a person can be found to have “possessed” an item without there being any direct evidence that the item was in the defendant’s immediate control. The concept of constructive possession often relies on circumstantial evidence suggesting that the defendant possessed an item. This opinion is a good example of how the concept of constructive possession works in practice.

According to the court’s opinion, law enforcement pulled over the defendant for a traffic stop. During the stop, the defendant fled the scene, speeding off around a corner that led down a dead-end street. The sheriff’s deputy knew that the defendant had gone down a dead-end road that had a fence on one side and a wooded area on the other. The deputy waited for the defendant to reemerge.

About a minute later, the defendant’s car reemerged but got stuck in a ditch. The defendant was arrested and the deputy searched the area around the one-way street, finding a gun in the wooded area and a hat alongside the road. The gun was about 12-16 feet from the road. DNA samples from both the gun and the hat matched the defendant’s DNA. A jury convicted the defendant, who appealed his conviction. Specifically, the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he possessed the weapon.

On appeal, the court noted that a defendant can be convicted of possessing a gun if the prosecution shows that the defendant constructively possessed the gun. Constructive possession, according to the court, requires, “proof that the defendant exercised dominion or control over the property by a sufficient level of control over the area in which the contraband is found.” The court went on to note that constructive possession can be proven through circumstantial evidence.

Here, the court began its analysis by noting that this case could have gone either way, explaining “a different result would not have been unreasonable given that no witness testified that he or she saw defendant possessing the gun.” However, the court went on to hold that the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to sustain the finding that the defendant possessed the gun. The court found no error in the way the gun and hat were collected and tested, and noted that the jury acted within its discretion when it weighed the evidence and found the defendant guilty.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Gun Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York gun crime, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At our law firm, we have extensive experience handling all types of firearm cases, as well as other serious felony crimes such as drug cases, violent crimes and more. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation.