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State v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

April 3, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Appellant,
v.
JOAQUIN DAVID GARCIA, Respondent.

          APPELWICK, J.

         Garcia was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree. He moved to exclude the prior conviction underlying this charge, because the predicate court did not notify him of the firearm prohibition. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the charge. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         The State charged Joaquin Garcia with unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, among other offenses. To satisfy the prior conviction element of this crime, the charge was premised on Garcia's 1994 conviction for rape of a child in the first degree.

         Garcia moved to exclude his 1994 conviction as a predicate offense. He argued that the State could not prove that the 1994 conviction was constitutionally valid. And, he argued that he had an affirmative defense to the first degree unlawful possession of a firearm charge, because the predicate court failed to notify him of the firearm prohibition.

         The parties submitted evidence concerning Garcia's 1994 conviction. After oral argument on the motion, the court concluded as a matter of law that Garcia did not receive the required notice of his ineligibility to possess firearms at the time of the 1994 conviction. As a result, the court excluded the 1994 conviction. Because that conviction was Garcia's only prior offense that could support the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, the court dismissed that charge.

         The State appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         The State argues that the trial court erred by excluding Garcia's 1994 conviction and dismissing the first degree unlawful possession of a firearm charge. It contends that the trial court erred in deciding this issue in the context of a CrR 8.3(c) motion. And, it asserts that the trial court erroneously applied a per se rule instead of examining whether Garcia had actual knowledge of the firearm prohibition.

         I. CrR 8.3(c) Motion

         The State contends that the trial court erred in determining this issue as a matter of law. It contends that the trial court should have treated Garcia's challenge to the underlying conviction as an affirmative defense, a question for the jury.

         Pretrial, a defendant may move to dismiss a criminal charge if there are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of the charged crime.[1] CrR 8.3(c); State v. Knapstad, 107 Wn.2d 346, 352-53, 729 P.2d 48 (1986). The defendant initiates such a motion by filing a sworn affidavit. Knapstad, 107 Wn.2d at 356. The State can defeat the motion by filing an affidavit that denies the defendant's alleged material facts, id. If the State does not dispute the facts or allege other material facts, the court must determine whether the facts relied upon by the State establish a prima facie case of guilt as a matter of law. id. at 356-57.

         On appeal, this court reviews de novo the trial court's decision to dismiss on a Knapstad motion, viewing the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Newcomb, 160 Wn.App. 184, 188-89, 246 P.3d 1286 (2011). We will affirm the trial court's dismissal of a charge based on a Knapstad motion if no rational finder of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. O'Meara, 143 Wn.App. 638, 641, 180 P.3d 196 (2008).

         This case involves a charge of first degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The elements of this offense are: (1) the defendant knowingly owned a firearm or knowingly had a firearm in his or her possession or control, (2) the defendant was previously convicted, adjudicated guilty as a juvenile, or found not guilty by reason of insanity of a serious offense, and (3) the ownership or possession or control occurred in the state of ...


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