Justices: State must prove loaded gun

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
The state has the burden to prove a gun was loaded when charging a defendant with pointing a firearm as a Class D felony, but it is up to the defendant to raise the issue when the state's evidence has not done so, the Indiana Supreme Court has decided.

In Henry J. Adkins v. State of Indiana, No. 20S03-0709-CR-374, the Supreme Court Wednesday upheld Henry Adkins' conviction of pointing a firearm as a Class D felony because during the trial he failed to bring up the issue of whether the gun was loaded or not. If it could be shown he pointed an unloaded gun, he would have been convicted only of a Class A misdemeanor.

Adkins presented an issue regarding the jury instructions, "... (I)f the State proved [all] of the elements of pointing a firearm, but the defendant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the firearm was unloaded, then, and only then, may you find the defendant guilty of pointing an unloaded firearm."

Adkins contended the state, not the defendant, has the burden of proving the "unloaded" element.

Adkins is correct, the Supreme Court found, because it interpreted Indiana Code Section 35-47-4-3(b) to mean an unloaded gun is a mitigating factor that reduces a defendant's culpability from a felony to a misdemeanor, Justice Frank Sullivan wrote.

The high court compared the act of proving a gun was unloaded to the matter of establishing "sudden heat" in prosecutions of murder and held it applies with respect to Class A misdemeanor pointing a firearm.

If a defendant is charged with the Class D felony offense but wants to be convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, the defendant only bears the burden of placing the issue of whether the gun is unloaded when the state's evidence has failed to do so. Then, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the firearm was loaded.

In this case, however, Adkins never offered evidence to suggest the firearm was unloaded when he pointed it at another person. In fact, there is evidence to show the gun was loaded when he pointed it, because afterward, witnesses testified they heard gunshots when Adkins was outside. Because of this, the instruction given by the trial court constituted a harmless error, Justice Sullivan wrote.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon