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State v. Fikes

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

December 31, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
JEREIL L. FIKES, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Patrick W. Campbell, Judge.

          Before: Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge, and Lisa White Hardwick and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judges.

          Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge

         Jereil Fikes appeals, following a bench trial, his conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm, § 571.070, [1] a class C felony, for which he received a suspended execution of sentence (SES) and three years' probation. Fikes raises one point on appeal; he argues that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence and entering judgment and sentence against him because the State failed to prove that Fikes knew he was a convicted felon. Because knowledge of a prior felony conviction is not an element of the offense of unlawful possession of a firearm under § 571.070, we affirm.

         Background[2]

         On October 10, 2016, Fikes was the subject of a traffic stop. When the officer requested permission to search the vehicle, Fikes consented and informed the officer that there was a gun in the car. The officer found a Hi Point .40 caliber handgun under the driver's seat, and Fikes admitted that the gun was his. The officer then arrested Fikes for several traffic violations.

         After Fikes was released from custody, an officer on the illegal firearms squad discovered that Fikes had a prior felony conviction. In April 2005, Fikes had pled guilty to felony resisting arrest; he received a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) and probation. Fikes later violated the terms of his probation, which the court revoked in 2007. The court converted Fikes's SIS to an SES and again placed him on probation.[3] In light of Fikes's prior felony conviction and the fact that he possessed a firearm when he was arrested in 2016, an investigative stop order was issued for Fikes's arrest.

         In April 2017, Fikes was arrested when he went to the police station to retrieve his gun. He was issued Miranda warnings, and he agreed to be interviewed. Fikes stated that he had purchased the gun from a private seller, and he admitted he had fired the gun at a shooting range. Fikes then asked why he was under arrest. In response, the officer asked Fikes if he was a convicted felon; Fikes said no and described a prior arrest, but said that he had received probation in that instance. The officer then explained that, while Fikes had received probation initially, the court had later revoked his probation, "causing him to be a convicted felon."

         Fikes waived his right to a jury trial on the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm and proceeded to a bench trial. At trial, Fikes argued that knowledge of his status as a felon was a material element of the offense and the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew of his felony conviction. The State submitted a certified copy of the 2007 order revoking Fikes's probation and a judgment sentencing him to six months' imprisonment for the class D felony of resisting arrest, suspending execution of that sentence, and placing him on probation.[4]

         At the close of evidence, Fikes moved for a judgment of acquittal, which the court denied. The court then held, "[k]nowing under the statute is an element of the possession of a firearm, not of the felony conviction; therefore, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the State has presented sufficient evidence and the Court finds Mr. Fikes guilty of the Class C felony of unlawful possession of a firearm." The court sentenced Fikes to three years' imprisonment, but suspended execution of his sentence and placed him on three years' probation.

         Fikes appeals.

         Standard of Review

         "Appellate review of sufficiency of the evidence is limited to whether the State has introduced adequate evidence from which a reasonable finder of fact could have found each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Lammers, 479 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2016). Here, Fikes argues that the term knowingly in § 571.070 extends to his status as a convicted felon and that the State failed to prove that Fikes knew he was a convicted felon. "The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, and appellate review is de novo." Nelson v. Crane, 187 S.W.3d 868, 869 (Mo. banc 2006). "The primary rule in statutory construction is to ascertain the intent of the ...


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