Florida Court Discusses What Constitutes a Reasonable Hypothesis of Innocence for the Crime of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon

If you are convicted of a felony in Florida, in addition to other penalties and fines, you are prohibited from owning a gun. Therefore, if you are found to be in possession of a gun following your conviction, you will face criminal charges. Unless the police actually find the gun in your possession the State may be forced to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the charges against you. In cases where the State solely relies on circumstantial evidence, a defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by offering a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. A Florida appellate court recently discussed what constitutes a reasonable hypothesis of innocence in a case in which the defendant’s acquittal for the crime of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was reversed. If you are a convicted felon living in St. Petersburg and you were recently charged with unlawful possession of a firearm it is vital to retain a trusted St. Petersburg gun crime defense attorney who can develop compelling arguments in your defense.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, the police conducted a traffic stop on a speeding car. When the car stopped, the driver exited the car and began running towards an apartment complex. The officer started to chase the driver and heard something metallic hit the pavement. The officer was unable to describe the man other than to give his height and race. The officer then noticed that the object the man dropped was a gun. The officer remained at the scene because he did not want to leave the gun and car unattended. A short time later, a woman who was later identified as the defendant’s girlfriend came out of the apartment complex and advised the police that the car was hers. The defendant was subsequently charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

It is reported that DNA testing was conducted on the gun and the magazine inside of the gun. During the trial, the State called two DNA experts as witnesses. The experts testified that the defendant’s DNA was found on the magazine. The experts also offered testimony as to how DNA can be transferred without a person touching an object. Specifically, DNA can be transferred when a person shakes hands with another person who then touches the object, sneezing, or the object coming into contact with the person’s clothes. After the State rested, the defendant moved for an acquittal based on two reasonable hypotheses of his innocence: that his DNA may have been on the gun due to a secondary transfer, or that he touched the magazine on a different date. The court ultimately granted the motion, after which the State appealed.

Hypothesis of Innocence

On appeal, the court stated that the trial court appropriately applied the circumstantial evidence standard, because the State’s evidence, namely that the defendant’s DNA was on the gun, did not prove his involvement in the crime. Thus, the court explained, because the State’s evidence was wholly circumstantial it must be inconsistent with any reasonable hypotheses of innocence. Here, the court found that the defendant’s hypotheses were not reasonable since they relied upon stacked inferences. Further, the court found the hypothesis that the defendant’s DNA was inside of the magazine in the gun due to secondary transfer to be illogical. The court explained that while possession of the gun was an essential element of the crime, the defendant’s arguments regarding the deposit of his DNA on the magazine that was within the gun did not create a reasonable hypothesis of innocence. As such, the court reversed the defendant’s acquittal and remanded for a new trial.

Consult an Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of St. Petersburg charged with the crime of possession of a firearm by a felon, you should consult an experienced St. Petersburg defense attorney to discuss your case and your available defenses.  William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a proficient St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney with experience defending convicted felons charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted at 727-897-5413 or through the online form to schedule a conference to discuss your case.


Contact Information