Judges affirm man’s handgun conviction

January 18, 2017

A Vanderburgh Circuit judge tendered a proper jury instruction on the charge of carrying a handgun without a license, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday in affirming a man’s conviction.

A detective in the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Department initiated an undercover operation to guy a handgun from Jeremiah Edward Ericksen. Ericksen showed the officer a black and silver Taurus .45 caliber gun. The two scheduled the purchase for Nov. 11, 2015.

On that day, officers saw Ericksen put a black bag inside of a black Jaguar registered to Marilyn Ericksen. He sat behind Marilyn Ericksen, who drove. Officers pulled over the car in a traffic stop, at which Eriksen became agitated and jumped out of the car and cursed at the officers. A K-9 was deployed, which allowed officers to get Ericksen into custody.

A search warrant led to the discovery of ammunition and the Taurus handgun underneath the driver’s seat.

Ericksen was charged with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license, enhanced to a Level 5 felony due to a prior conviction, and resisting law enforcement as a Level 6 felony. He was found guilty as charged and pleaded guilty to the enhancement.

Ericksen appealed, claiming the statute requires a person to be carrying, rather than possessing a handgun, so constructive possession is not an appropriate analysis to find him guilty. The Court of Appeals disagreed, pointing to Henderson v. State, 715 N.E.2d 833 (Ind. 1999).

“[T]he evidence indicates that the handgun was found within easy reach of where Ericksen had been sitting, he had displayed the handgun during his meeting with Detective (James) Budde, he made furtive movements during the traffic stop and charged the officers resulting in resisting arrest charges. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that sufficient evidence exists establishing that Ericksen constructively possessed the handgun while seated in the vehicle,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

Ericksen also argued the final jury instruction erroneously broadened the factual allegations sustaining his handgun charge. The charging information said he had the handgun in or upon his vehicle, but the jury instruction said one could be convicted of the misdemeanor charge by carrying a handgun in any vehicle. Ericksen maintained he had prepared his defense, based on the charging information, to show that he didn’t own the Jaguar.

Riley pointed out that the jury instruction followed the handgun statute verbatim and the recitation of the statutory elements in the instruction did not serve as a basis to mislead the jury under the facts and circumstances of his case.

The case is Jeremiah Edward Ericksen v. State of Indiana, 82A05-1605-CR-1153.


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