Warrant legal in 2007 gun raid, court says

WILLIAM MARTIN Says this is “not the final chapter”

A search warrant allowing authorities to raid a Fruitvale man’s home and seize guns in November 2007 was valid, the Colorado Court of Appeals said Thursday.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger was correct when he denied a motion from attorneys representing Fruitvale resident William Martin, whose home at 530 30 Road was targeted by Mesa County Sheriff’s SWAT officers on the morning of Nov. 15, 2007.

Martin’s attorneys argued the search warrant was illegal because Martin was exempt from a state law prohibiting felons from possessing firearms, among other reasons.
Officers in November 2007 removed 150 firearms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition from Martin’s home.

Martin pleaded guilty in May 1991 to felony vehicular assault and was sentenced to probation. He successfully completed probation in January 1994. That, Martin’s attorney’s noted, was four months before the Colorado Legislature adopted the felon-firearms prohibition.

Martin argued his right to possess weapons was essentially restored after he completed his probation.

Bottger disagreed. The Court of Appeals on Thursday sided with the judge.

The statute addressing felons and firearms “contains no exemption for convicted felons whose civil rights have been restored,” the Appeals Court wrote. “Accordingly, we conclude the warrant was not insufficient on its face, and the trial court did not err in denying Martin’s motion.”

Martin said he hadn’t read the decision Thursday and declined comment until he’s able
to review it with his attorney.

“This is not the final chapter,” he said.

Authorities eventually declined to prosecute Martin and returned his weapons.

“There is no question that (Martin) is a convicted felon,” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger wrote in a letter, outlining his decision not to bring charges. “We are convinced, however, that Mr. Martin was not fairly on notice of the criminal nature of his conduct at the time these weapons were seized from him.”


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