CrRLJ 6.16 - Jury Verdicts and FindingsComments for CrRLJ 6.16 must be received no later than August 29, 2008.
Criminal Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Rule 6.16
1. Notification of Firearm Restrictions. RCW 9.41.047 was enacted in 1994 as part of an omnibus violence reduction program. See Laws of 1994, 1st Sp. Sess. §§ 101 and 404. This statute provides, in pertinent part, that
At the time a person is . . . committed by court order under RCW 71.05.320, 71.34.090 [recodified in 2005 as RCW 71.34.750], or chapter 10.77 RCW for mental health treatment, the . . .or committing court shall notify the person, orally and in writing, that the person must immediately surrender any concealed pistol license and that the person may not possess a firearm unless his or her right to do so is restored by a court of record. For purposes of this section a convicting court includes a court in which a person has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The convicting or committing court also shall forward a copy of the person's driver's license or identicard, or comparable information, to the department of licensing, along with the date of conviction or commitment.
A recent informal review of the adequacy of the state's compliance with the above statute indicates that, while some courts are providing the statutorily required notice when an individual is acquitted by reason of insanity, many are not. This informal review also established that sufficient information is often not being submitted to the Department of Licensing to allow the Department to match the notice to a specific person's file. In addition, proposed federal legislation would reduce federal provided to states that do not fully report the names of individuals who are ineligible to possess a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4) due to the individual having "been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution." See H.R. 2640 and S. 2084 (NICS Improvement Amendment Act of 2007).
Providing defendants who are acquitted by reason of insanity (hereinafter "NGI acquittee") with information regarding the impact of the acquittal upon their ability to possess a firearm is only fair. While the failure to provide such notice may present a defense to a state firearms charge, the federal law recognizes no such defense. See United States v. Milheron, 231 F. Supp. 2d 376, 378-81 (D. Maine 2002) (ignorance of the law is not a defense to prosecution for possession a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4)). Cf. United States v. Napier, 233 F.3d 394 (6th Cir. 2000) (failure to notify the person restrained by a DV order that federal law bars their possession of a firearm is not a defense to federal prosecution for unlawfully possessing a firearm); United States v. Kafka, 222 F.3d 1129, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (same).
Adding a new section to CrRLJ 6.16 that outlines the duties mandated by a statute that is buried in Title 9 RCW, will increase the likelihood that NGI acquittees will receive information that can assist them in avoiding criminal liability and that the government will receive information that can assist it during gun purchase background checks.
2. Sex Offender Registration. Persons who are found not guilty by reason of insanity under chapter 10.77 RCW of committing any sex offense or kidnapping offense as defined by RCW 9A.44.130(10), are required to register as sex offenders pursuant to RCW 9A.44.130. While persons who plead guilty to a sex offense or kidnapping offense or who are found guilty of a sex offense or kidnapping offense are advised by the court of their obligation to register pursuant to CrRLJ 4.2(g) and CrRLJ 7.2(e)'s adoption of the uniform judgment and sentence, no court rule or statute mandates that the NGI acquittee receive the same information.
Providing an NGI acquittee with information regarding their obligations under RCW 9A.44.130 at the time of the NGI verdict will increase the likelihood that the NGI acquittee will satisfy his or her obligations under the law. Improved compliance with the sex offender registration law by NGI acquittees, increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to keep their communities safe.
3. Time Limits on Collateral Attacks. The legislature in RCW 10.73.090 mandated that collateral attacks on facially valid judgments must generally be brought within one year of the judgment becoming final. This one year time bar has been incorporated into numerous court rules. See, e.g., CrR 7.8(b); CrRLJ 7.8(b); RAP 16.4(d). This one year time bar has been applied by this court to an NGI acquittee's collateral attack. See In re Personal Restraint of Well, 133 Wn.2d 433, 946 P.2d 750 (1997).
Individuals who are convicted of crimes are advised pursuant to statute and court rule of the one year time period for filing a collateral attack. See RCW 10.73.110; CrR 7.2(b)(6); CrRLJ 7.2(b)(6). No statute or court rule requires that NGI acquittees receive the same warning. Well, 133 Wn.2d at 443-44.
Providing an NGI acquittee with information regarding the time bar upon filing a collateral attack when the verdict is received will alert the NGI acquittee of the need to act in a timely manner.