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Thread: Police seizing handgun...

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    So a buddy of mine was stopped for speeding, and unbeknownst to him had a warrant for failing to pay a court fine. They took him in, searched the car, and called a buddy of his to retrieve his vehicle from the side of the road.

    My buddy had an unloaded Blackhawk .41 revolver on his car seat (He hasn't gotten his CPL/CCW license yet). He told the cop it was there as soon as he got to the window, and said cop told him it was fine.

    HOWEVER

    After getting bailed out of jail he was told they had seized the gun because it wasn't registered in his name, and he would have to get a notarized letter proving it was actually his if he wanted it back!

    This gun was his grandfathers', which was passed down to his father, and very recently passed down to him. I own several guns myself, some of which are private sales and of course not registered. I've NEVER heard of this being a requirement. Anyone know if this seizure is even legal?

    This friend has never been convicted of a violent crime, his court fine was from a driving w/o license from years ago and his warrant was for failure to pay or appear for the same crime.

    This is in Washington State.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Thanks

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    You would get better and more answers if you post this in the Washington forum near the bottom of the index page.

    That being said, police generally won't return property they have seized except to the rightful owner. For the piddling things in the defendant's pockets at the time of arrest, they will just assume that's the arrestee.

    However, for items of value, especially those bearing serial numbers that can be tracked, they would be irresponsible not to make sure that you are the rightful owner before giving them to you.

    As far as whether the initial seizure was legal, that could depend on when the officer seized the firearm. If he took it into custody before cuffing your friend, he can claim "officer safety." Once your friend was cuffed, there might be a case that he no longer needed to seize the firearm for "officer safety." However, after taking your friend into custody, it would be reasonable for him to safeguard the firearm. Leaving it in a car at the side of the road, at best to be picked up by a friend (who may or may not be able to possess or carry it), at worst to be stolen, would also be irresponsible.

    The full answer to your question would depend on details that you have not provided and Washington law.

    I am thinking, though, that your friend has no case.

    IANAL.

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    So unless he can prove that it's his firearm (Guilty until proven innocent?), he's SOL and the WA State Patrol just got themselves a free firearm?

    How is that not literally highway robbery?

    Thanks for the help, wish things were different :/

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    Your friend was arrested. Taking handguns into custody incidental to arrest is fairly routine. Insuring that they are returned to rightful owners should be routine. If your friend cannot prove to the satisfaction of the police that the handgun is his, he should do so in court.

    Under many other circumstances, I would be supportive of your friend. However, he was arrested, and lawfully so, judging from your story.

    Even if the actual circumstances of the seizure wasn't lawful (I don't know WA law), it certainly wasn't highway robbery.

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    Regular Member simmonsjoe's Avatar
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    IANAL, but unless the cops can prove it isn't your handgun, then your possession of the gun is the only evidence at hand. Therefor it is your friends gun. The police are wrong on this one. Have your buddy get a gun-friendly lawyer to tell him state-specific laws.
    illegal ≠ immoral legal ≠ moral
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    eye95 wrote:
    Your friend was arrested. Taking handguns into custody incidental to arrest is fairly routine. Insuring that they are returned to rightful owners should be routine. If your friend cannot prove to the satisfaction of the police that the handgun is his, he should do so in court.

    Under many other circumstances, I would be supportive of your friend. However, he was arrested, and lawfully so, judging from your story.

    Even if the actual circumstances of the seizure wasn't lawful (I don't know WA law), it certainly wasn't highway robbery.
    I do understand taking the handgun into custody when he was arrested, that doesn't sound too out of the norm, but forcing him to prove that the gun is his is what I question. There's no law requiring registration of firearms in this country or in this state.

    Many people have guns that were either gifted, sold privately, or bought at gun shows--all circumstances that would lead to a gun (legally) not being registered in the current owner's name.

    Should the cop be able to seize his laptop until he can prove it's his too? I don't see why I should have to prove my belongings are mine, unless there's reasonable evidence to suspect they are not.

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    simmonsjoe wrote:
    IANAL, but unless the cops can prove it isn't your handgun, then your possession of the gun is the only evidence at hand. Therefor it is your friends gun. The police are wrong on this one. Have your buddy get a gun-friendly lawyer to tell him state-specific laws.
    My answer was based on the following: "After getting bailed out of jail he was told they had seized the gun because it wasn't registered in his name, and he would have to get a notarized letter proving it was actually his if he wanted it back!"

    I am not familiar with WA law, but the preceding leads me to believe that WA registers firearms. If they do, a firearm not registered in someone's name is a valid reason to suspect that the gun is not his. The police, of course, want to ensure they are returning a firearm to its owner. They have provided the friend a way to prove ownership.

    If WA does not routinely register firearms, then I would agree with you. The only available evidence of ownership is possession, and they would have have no reason to believe the gun does not belong to the friend. In that case, they should return it.

    So, the question is: Does WA routinely register ownership of firearms?

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    No, WA does not require ANY firearms be registered. Dealers however, are required to report gun sales.

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    If Washington does not require registration, how did they try to check?

    Anyway, I would suggest that he produce the notarized affidavit. It would be the easiest way to get the gun back. However, getting a lawyer would be another, more expensive, and slower option.

    I know it's annoying, but I think the police are just being careful about ownership. After all, they are dealing with someone who broke one law, warranting arrest. They are being overcautious.

    Edited to take into account the intervening post.

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    He is going to try to jump through their hoops as he is desperate to get his gun back. My concern is that the seizure / requirements to obtain his gun is sketchy at best. Oh well. Thanks for the input, a lot of sensible thinking going on here. I don't think the police are up to any nefarious plots, I just don't think they are going about this legally.

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    Police don't always follow the law. The best advice I can give your friend is "Choose your battles wisely."

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    eye95 wrote:
    simmonsjoe wrote:
    IANAL, but unless the cops can prove it isn't your handgun, then your possession of the gun is the only evidence at hand. Therefor it is your friends gun. The police are wrong on this one. Have your buddy get a gun-friendly lawyer to tell him state-specific laws.
    My answer was based on the following: "After getting bailed out of jail he was told they had seized the gun because it wasn't registered in his name, and he would have to get a notarized letter proving it was actually his if he wanted it back!"

    I am not familiar with WA law, but the preceding leads me to believe that WA registers firearms. If they do, a firearm not registered in someone's name is a valid reason to suspect that the gun is not his. The police, of course, want to ensure they are returning a firearm to its owner. They have provided the friend a way to prove ownership.

    If WA does not routinely register firearms, then I would agree with you. The only available evidence of ownership is possession, and they would have have no reason to believe the gun does not belong to the friend. In that case, they should return it.

    So, the question is: Does WA routinely register ownership of firearms?

    Haven't you ,in other threads, brought up something called "false choice"? If the state does not require registration, then isn't the only proof he should need the fact the "property" was in his possession? To seize someones "property" and then demand proof that it is indeed theirs if done by a civilian, would in fact be considered "robbery". I cannot see how they can seize something from someone(for their or it's safety) and then claim that person must prove it was theirs in the first place.

    AUDE VIDE TACE

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    SavageOne wrote:
    eye95 wrote:
    simmonsjoe wrote:
    IANAL, but unless the cops can prove it isn't your handgun, then your possession of the gun is the only evidence at hand. Therefor it is your friends gun. The police are wrong on this one. Have your buddy get a gun-friendly lawyer to tell him state-specific laws.
    My answer was based on the following: "After getting bailed out of jail he was told they had seized the gun because it wasn't registered in his name, and he would have to get a notarized letter proving it was actually his if he wanted it back!"

    I am not familiar with WA law, but the preceding leads me to believe that WA registers firearms. If they do, a firearm not registered in someone's name is a valid reason to suspect that the gun is not his. The police, of course, want to ensure they are returning a firearm to its owner. They have provided the friend a way to prove ownership.

    If WA does not routinely register firearms, then I would agree with you. The only available evidence of ownership is possession, and they would have have no reason to believe the gun does not belong to the friend. In that case, they should return it.

    So, the question is: Does WA routinely register ownership of firearms?
    Haven't you ,in other threads, brought up something called "false choice"? If the state does not require registration, then isn't the only proof he should need the fact the "property" was in his possession? To seize someones "property" and then demand proof that it is indeed theirs if done by a civilian, would in fact be considered "robbery". I cannot see how they can seize something from someone(for their or it's safety) and then claim that person must prove it was theirs in the first place.
    False choice is a logical fallacy in an argument. It means that one has said that either A or B must happen even though a third (at least) possibility exists. If I have presented only two possibilities and ignored a third, point it out and I will address it.

    It is the reality of the situation that the defendant has placed himself in the situation whereby representatives of the State are (probably lawfully, at least in good faith) in possession of a firearm of whose ownership they are not certain. (The police may well be creating a false choice: check the State database or check proof of ownership, ignoring the possibility of assuming ownership. But, that should be argued, no doubt fruitlessly, with them, no me.)

    While I agree that by not assuming that the firearm belongs to the man possessing it (and not using it unlawfully), the police are treading on the RKBA and private property rights, my position is that they are trying to be responsible about handing over a gun. Furthermore, they have provided the friend a relatively easy way to get his gun back. He could go to court, but wouldn't the option provided by the police be tremendously easier?

    If he thinks making the point about the principle is important, he should put forth the effort to sue. However, I think that I mentioned earlier that it is wise to choose one's battles carefully.

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    eye95 wrote:
    simmonsjoe wrote:
    IANAL, but unless the cops can prove it isn't your handgun, then your possession of the gun is the only evidence at hand. Therefor it is your friends gun. The police are wrong on this one. Have your buddy get a gun-friendly lawyer to tell him state-specific laws.
    My answer was based on the following: "After getting bailed out of jail he was told they had seized the gun because it wasn't registered in his name, and he would have to get a notarized letter proving it was actually his if he wanted it back!"

    I am not familiar with WA law, but the preceding leads me to believe that WA registers firearms. If they do, a firearm not registered in someone's name is a valid reason to suspect that the gun is not his. The police, of course, want to ensure they are returning a firearm to its owner. They have provided the friend a way to prove ownership.

    If WA does not routinely register firearms, then I would agree with you. The only available evidence of ownership is possession, and they would have have no reason to believe the gun does not belong to the friend. In that case, they should return it.

    So, the question is: Does WA routinely register ownership of firearms?
    WASHINGTON STATE DOES NOT REGISTER HANDGUNS. (OR LONG GUNS FOR THAT MATTER).
    illegal ≠ immoral legal ≠ moral
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    So now I'm really curious; if WA does not register handguns, what did the police "check" to see that "it was not registered in his name"?

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    flintlock tom wrote:
    So now I'm really curious; if WA does not register handguns, what did the police "check" to see that "it was not registered in his name"?
    That check is what led me to believe that WA had registration.

    However, in this discussion, we are long since past determining that WA does not register, which is why I didn't bother to reply to the post above yours.

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    why doesnt anybody remember some words in the 4th amendment?
    unreasonable search and SEIZURE !

    there is no stolen pistol report, so there is no RAS to doubt his ownership.

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    1245A Defender wrote:
    why doesnt anybody remember some words in the 4th amendment?
    unreasonable search and SEIZURE !

    there is no stolen pistol report, so there is no RAS to doubt his ownership.
    It was not seized because it might be stolen. It was seized incident to a lawful arrest. The question of ownership came at time of return. Again, now that it is clear the WA does not have the registration system the the original post implied, I agree that possession at the time of the (almost surely legal) seizure should be ample proof of ownership.

    However, the police have made it fairly easy for the friend to get the gun back. They are just doing a little CYA here.

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    NavyLT wrote:
    Come on now. Look, all the police are asking for is a sworn statement from him that the gun is his! How hard is that?!? The police will also do a background check on him to ensure he is not prohibited from possessing the gun. But all this concern over a sworn statement that gun is his?!? Come on....

    What were the police supposed to do? Just leave the gun in the car for whomever to come along and take it?


    The letter is simple: I, Joe Schmoe, do swear that I am the true owner of this make/model gun which was in my possession in my vehicle on date, which was confiscated during my arrest on same date. I acquired this gun from my grandfather approximately 40 years ago.

    Sworn before notary info, on this date....
    It's not about how hard it is! The police have no RAS to doubt his ownership.
    keeping his gun is a violation of his 4th amendment rights
    Requiring a sworn statement is a violation of his 5th amendment rights.

    He should sue the @#$% out of that department. Tell you friend to contact a lawyer NOW.
    illegal ≠ immoral legal ≠ moral
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