COA orders return of gun to rightful owner

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Olivia Covington for www.theindianalawyer.com

A man whose handgun was confiscated after police believed it was stolen will soon have the gun returned to his family. The Indiana Court of Appeals found Friday the man proved his mother was the rightful owner of the firearm.

After officers were dispatched to investigate a reported break-in at a commercial building in June 2016, Jonathan Kent Roy was seen through a window sitting on an air mattress and tending to a cut on his leg. Roy then picked up and hid a handgun. When an officer knocked on the door, Roy grabbed the gun, ran to another part of the building, then returned to his previous location.

The officers entered the building and took Roy into custody, then found a revolver in a backpack. A search of the information listed on the gun showed a handgun with the same serial number was reported stolen in Texas in 1991.

The state subsequently charged Roy with Level 5 felony burglary, Level 6 felony theft of a firearm and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. Roy agreed to plead guilty to criminal trespass and carrying a handgun without a license, both Class A misdemeanors, and the Vanderburgh Circuit Court imposed a sentence of time served.

Roy then filed a petition for return of property, seeking the return of the handgun to his mother, whom he claimed was the rightful owner of the gun and had loaned it to him. Roy went on to say the gun had belonged to his late father since the 1980s, but the court concluded his mother was not the rightful owner and, thus, denied his petition.

On appeal in Jonathan Kent Roy v. State of Indiana, 82A01-1701-CR-204, Roy argued the court’s decision should be reversed because it was unsupported by the evidence. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, with Senior Judge Carr Darden noting that deputy Joshua Patterson testified that he had been unable to confirm the gun found in Roy’s possession was the gun that had been reported in Texas. Additionally, testimony was presented that two different guns were associated with the same serial number, Darden said.

“By contrast, Roy’s mother identified and testified unequivocally that Roy’s father had owned the handgun in question before their marriage in 1985,” Darden wrote. “Further, police records show that law enforcement, pursuant to a search warrant, temporarily confiscated the handgun from Roy’s father in 2000 and later returned it to him in 2001.”

The appellate court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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