Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
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.
King Mitchell, Chief Judge
Fikes appeals, following a bench trial, his conviction of
unlawful possession of a firearm, § 571.070,
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.
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
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. 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.
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
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.
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.
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 ...