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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia weapons offense case, requiring the court to determine if a knife counts as a “weapon” under the language of Virginia Code section 18.2-308(A). Ultimately, the court concluded that a knife falls within the category of prohibited items, affirming the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a young boy was playing football near the defendant’s car. At some point, the boy nearly hit the car with the football. The defendant got upset, and told the boy, “hit my car again and see what happens.” The defendant left, returning with a metal knuckle knife. Initially, the defendant held the knife at his side, but raised it as he approached the boy. The defendant then lifted the boy up and pretended to stab him in the chest and stomach before putting the boy down.

Police later arrested the defendant, confiscating the knife. However, when the arresting officer seized the knuckle knife, he did not know that it was a knife, thinking it was a pair of brass knuckles. At trial, the defendant moved to strike the indictment, arguing that a knuckle knife was not included among the prohibited items in section 18.2-308(A).

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The Commonwealth has various statutes that govern Virginia gun offenses. The statutes delineate what constitutes a weapon or firearm, who can possess the weapon, and what processes the owner must go through to obtain and maintain a firearm legally. Further, criminal laws address what actions constitute a Virginia weapons offense and the commiserate punishment for violating a statute. These laws typically involve the complicated interplay between various statutes, and it is essential that those accused of a Virginia gun offense contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney.

For example, recently, the Court of Appeals of Virginia issued an opinion in the combined appeals of two defendants arguing that Virginia’s successive prosecution code bars their prosecutions for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In this case, two defendants argued that the court should dismiss their convictions for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

At issue was Virginia Code section 19.2-294, which covers dual charging. The code addresses limiting prosecutions in cases where double jeopardy is irrelevant. Specifically, if a defendant’s act is a “violation of two or more statutes or two or more ordinances,” conviction under one of the statutes or ordinances “shall be a bar to a prosecution proceeding under the other or others.” Moreover, if the offense is a violation of a statute and federal statute, prosecution under the federal statute will bar prosecution under the state statute. The statute is designed to prevent an accused from multiple prosecutions. However, unlike double jeopardy rules, the statute does not consider the elements of an offense, and instead limits prosecution to an act instead of a crime. It only applies if there has been a “conviction,” not just a proceeding or prosecution.

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