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Gun Laws: The Mere Possession Of A Gun Presumes The Intent To Use it Against Another.


Gun laws the mere possession presumes intent to use it against another

People v. Galindo

955 N.Y.S.2d 24 

New York Court Of Appeals

Decided on: December 4th, 2012

Summary:Defendant Oliverio Galindo shot his cousin in the leg. He accompanied his cousin to the Hospital and was later arrested. Defendant was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a loaded firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully against another Penal Law § 265.03 (1). At trial, the court instructed the jury, that if the people proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant possessed a loaded firearm, the jury may, but is not required to, infer that Defendant possessed the weapon with the ‘intent’ to use the same unlawfully against another. The jury returned a verdict convicting Defendant on second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The Appellate Division affirmed stating the circumstances of Defendant’s possession of a loaded firearm, viewed in light of the statutory presumption of unlawful intent under Penal Law §265.15

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The Court Of Appeals affirmed and held that under Penal Law § 265.15 (4) provides that, the possession by any person of any weapon is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another person

Issue: Whether Defendant’s possession of a loaded firearm under Penal Law 265.03 is also presumptive evidence of intent to use the same gun unlawfully against another person under Penal Law § 265.15.

Holding: Yes. The Court Of Appeals held that, under Penal Law §265.15, a statutory presumption exists that permits a jury to find that defendant intended to use a weapon unlawfully merely because he or she possessed that weapon. The predicate fact the people must prove to trigger the presumption of unlawful intent under Penal Law §265.15 is possession of any weapon. Once the people have proven this fact beyond a reasonable doubt, the ‘unlawful intent’ presumption becomes part of the people’s prima facie case and is weighed with all the competing inferences.

Facts: Defendant Oliverio Galindo shot his cousin in the leg. He accompanied his cousin to the Hospital and was later arrested. Defendant was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a loaded firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully against another Penal Law § 265.03 (1), and the other for possession of the same outside his home or place of business. At trial, the people presented evidence that Defendant returned to his work at a restaurant and told his manager that he and his cousin were mugged outside the restaurant.

The trial court instructed the jury, that if the people proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant possessed a loaded firearm, the jury may, but is not required to, infer that Defendant possessed the weapon with the ‘intent’ to use the same unlawfully against another. The jury subsequently returned a verdict convicting Defendant on second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The Appellate Division affirmed stating the circumstances of Defendant’s possession of a loaded firearm viewed in light of the statutory presumption of unlawful intent Penal Law §265.15.

The Court Of Appeals held that under Penal Law § 265.15 (4) provides that, the possession by any person of any weapon is presumptive evidence of intent to use the same unlawfully against another person. The purpose of a statutory presumption is to allow a particular fact to be established by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Legal Analysis: The Court Of Appeals held that a person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree when ‘ with intent to use the same unlawfully against another, and that such person possessed a loaded firearm. The people never alleged, nor were they required to prove that Defendant specifically intended to use the gun unlawfully against his cousin or anyone else; only that he intended to use it against “another” person Penal Law § 265.03. In deciding whether to accept or reject the presumption of unlawful intent, the jury weighed all the competing inferences.

Penal Law 265.03(1) challenges the use the statutory presumption of unlawful intent based on the circumstances of this case, where the People presented no direct evidence of intent and the testimony suggested that Defendant shot his cousin accidently. The Court Of Appeals held that there was no error in the application of statutory presumption and conclude that the evidence supported Defendant’s conviction was legally sufficient.

A statutory presumption is a deduction or an inference, which the trier of fact may draw from facts found otherwise established during the course of the trial. The trier of fact to determine the existence of an element of the crime that is, an ‘ultimate’ or ‘element’ fact from the existence of one or more ‘evidentiary’ or ‘basic’ fact. The presumption of unlawful intent under Penal Law § 265.14 (4), is a permissive presumption. It allows, but does not require, the trier fact to accept the presumed fact, and does not shift to the Defendant the burden of proof.

The purpose of a statutory presumption is to allow a particular fact to be established by inferential proof that the people must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the predicate fact or facts the statue requires to be proved. If the People succeed this endeavor, they are entitled to rely on the presumption, which forms part of the support for their prima facie case against the Defendant.