Compton, Felon in Possession of an Antique Firearm

Our client, age 29, had entered into a plea bargain in May to resolve a possession of cocaine sales case.  This was a felony and thus, our client was prohibited from owning, possessing or having access to any firearm, ammunition or ammunition loading device for life.
 
The case was out of the Compton courthouse and our client was placed on three years of formal probation with an obligation to perform 30 days of Cal-Trans.  Our client was happy with the terms of probation because he had a lengthy criminal history, but not for any felony conviction.  He was pleased to be placed on probation due to lingering child support issues with the mother of one of his children and he wanted to attend the family law court proceedings.

Two months later, Compton Police Department officers conducted a “standard probation check” on his house and entered the home.  This type of search is illegal unless the police have some type of specific suspicion or new grounds for a search.  Otherwise, such a search is not allowed, as its purpose here certainly seemed purely to harass or annoy our client because he was on probation.

Once inside the home, officers spotted a fifty-year old Thompson shotgun mounted on a frame.  The weapon was an antique inherited by our client’s mom from her father, who recently passed away.  The weapon was assembled from a kit and was meant to commemorate the Prohibition-era use of such weapons by those smuggling alcohol and police officers who wanted the best weapons to fight such white-collar criminals.  The Thompson machine gun was glamorized in many Hollywood movies as a macho, powerful weapon.

In our client’s case, the weapon was sitting in an abandoned room, behind a curtain, on the floor and our client barely knew it was there, although he did admit to police he knew it was there.  This was the biggest problem of the case: our client’s admission that he knew the weapon was in the home.

This antique gun had never been fired and there was no shotgun ammunition for it in the home.  After all, it was meant to be looked at and enjoyed as a piece of art.

Police, however, knowing our client had a no-weapons condition as part of his probation, immediately arrested our client and took him to jail.

The case for a violation of Penal Code § 29800(a)(1) was filed in the Compton courthouse and our client also faced a probation violation.  Greg explained that the weapon had no functional or operational value, but the prosecution recognized its deterrence value and how our client could use the weapon to enforce a drug sale or defend himself, at least if the buyer or another seller was intimidated by the weapon.

The initial offer by the prosecution was three years in county jail for the probation violation and the new case.  After all, our client had only entered probation two months earlier.
 
While Penal Code § 29800 did not require an operational weapon, it was nonetheless mitigating that the shotgun at issue was not functional and there was no ammunition present.

Eventually, after several appearances (during which bail was denied, so our client remained in custody), the district attorney offered a joint suspended deal of four years on the underlying probation violation and eight months (1/2 of the low term) on the 29800 charge, for a total of four years and eight months suspended.  Our client was released from jail with three years of formal probation and an obligation to perform an additional thirty days of Cal-Trans.

While this resolution was more than what could have been possibly obtained at trial.  However, our client was happy to return to work (as a barber) and be able to attend the continuing child custody hearings in family law court.

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