Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Sam Harkinson, Previously employed as an Assistant County, Attorney, and as an insurance adjuster, now as an associate at Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts

No. 2020-0570

March 17, 2022

Affirmed

 

  • Whether the trial court misconstrued the applicability of an antique firearm exception in applying to a felon in possession of a firearm, and whether the felon in possession of a firearm statute is constitutionally vague.

 

The Defendant was previously convicted of a felony and placed on probation.  Following his conviction, the Defendant was prohibited from owning firearms pursuant to state law.  Following a tip that the Defendant was using firearms, a search was conducted of his home and vehicle which resulted in the discovery of black powder, a package of shot, and an operable firearm, specifically a .44 caliber black powder percussion cap revolver, model 1851 Reb Nord Navy Sheriff.  The Defendant was indicted for a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, contrary to NH RSA 159:3.  The Defendant unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the indictment arguing that the term “other firearm” did not apply to pistol in his possession, and, after stipulating to a bench trial and not objecting to an offer of proof, was convicted of the indictment and entered this appeal.

Since the legislature did not define the term “other firearm,” the Court began by reviewing the dictionary for guidance.  In doing so, the Court determined that the term “other firearm” includes those weapons from which shot is discharged by gunpowder, and thus that felons are prohibited from owning a broad class of firearms. In so concluding, the Court found that the weapon at issue in the case at had was part of the broad category of weapons that the Defendant, as a felon, was prohibited from possessing.  The Court expressly rejected the Defendant’s various arguments that the term “other firearm” did not include weapon that was in possession.

Finally, the Court rejected the Defendant’s claim that the statute at issue was constitutionally vague, finding that the statute at issue provides a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand the conduct that it prohibits.  For all of the forgoing reasons, the Court affirmed the Defendant’s conviction as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

 

The Office of Attorney General John M. Formella and The Office of Solicitor General Anthony J. Galdieri, Assistant Attorney General Weston R. Sager on the brief, and Solicitor General Anthony J. Galdieri orally for the State.  Lechman Major List, PLLC, Sean R. List on the brief and orally, and Law Office of Michael J. Zaino, PLLC, Michael J. Zaino on the brief for the Defendant.