June 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Short Shotguns Not Protected by Constitutional Right to Bear Arms

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Sandoval on Thursday, February 11, 2016.

Police executing a search warrant on Miguel Sandoval’s property after a shooting found a short shotgun in the shed in his backyard. Sandoval was convicted after a bench trial of possessing a dangerous weapon and appealed, arguing the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of the gun in the trial court, contending the shed was outside the scope of the warrant, and in precluding him from asserting the affirmative defenses of the right to bear arms and self-defense. He also argued the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

The court of appeals first evaluated the scope of the search warrant at issue. The warrant authorized the police to enter and search “the person, premises, location and any appurtenances thereto” of Sandoval’s residence. Because the shed in question was in Sandoval’s backyard and very close to the residence, the court found that search of the shed was within the scope of the warrant. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of Sandoval’s suppression motion based on the search of the shed.

Next, the court evaluated the right to bear arms as enunciated in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article II, section 13 of the Colorado Constitution. The court noted that the Supreme Court declined to hold that the Second Amendment provided a constitutional right to possess dangerous weapons, and short shotguns were typically used solely by criminals. The court found that there was no constitutional right for Sandoval to possess the short shotgun and therefore it was not available as an affirmative defense.

Finally, the court evaluated Sandoval’s sufficiency claim and found the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction. Although Sandoval never identified the particular short shotgun at issue as his, he admitted there was a short shotgun at his residence, the short shotgun at issue was found at Sandoval’s residence in the shed in the backyard, a key to the shed was found at Sandoval’s residence, and a spent shotgun round that had been fired from the short shotgun at issue was found in Sandoval’s bedroom. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support Sandoval’s conviction.

The court of appeals affirmed the district court.

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