ILNews

Justices: State must prove loaded gun

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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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.
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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