Thursday, July 04, 2013

CA DOJ, APPS and the Law of Attribution

APPS Program Credit For Recent Arrest Is Dubious

CalGunLaws News eBULLETin

Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, has issued a press release announcing that Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms agents "conducted an Armed and Prohibited Persons (APPS) investigation" that resulted in the seizure of nine firearms, as well as a large amount of ammunition and "large capacity" magazines.

While the DOJ’s success in this arrest may be laudable, the Attorney General’s claim that this is an APPS program related success is dubious.

APPS is a system unique to California. The California DOJ cross-references its list of people who legally registered handguns and so-called "assault weapons" since 1996, with its list of people who subsequently are prohibited by law from possessing firearms for either a disqualifying criminal conviction, restraining order, or mental health issue. Where there is a match, DOJ conducts an investigation to determine whether the person on both lists still possesses any firearms. DOJ personnel typically visit the residence of the person, without a warrant, and try to conduct an interview whereby the elicit incriminating statements.

As explained in a previous article and two NRA News videos, although APPS is good in theory, in practice, its impact ranges from incidental to unjust. Many, if not most, people on the prohibited list don’t know it, aren’t dangerous, and could have their gun rights restored by simply filing some paperwork.

According to the Attorney General’s recent press release, the person arrested is a convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms, ammunition, and magazines, and who obtained all the seized guns illegally. But the language of the Attorney General’s press release itself casts doubt on the claim that the APPS system played a role in this case at all. While it is possible APPS contributed to this bust in some way, it is not clear how it could.

APPS depends on legally registered firearms already being in the database of guns registered to gun owners. But here, the Attorney General explains, all the firearms seized from the individual arrested were obtained illegally and were mostly "unregistered assault weapons." Those unregistered or illegally obtained firearms would not be on the APPS system list in the first place. Also, the Attorney General’s release describes the operation as a "probation search." Law enforcement can legally search the homes of people on formal probation without a warrant. Those people on probation have waived their Fourth Amendment rights. As such, APPS has little to do with a probation search. Agents do not need evidence from APPS (to the extent there is any) to conduct probation searches and a seizure if they then find something illegal. So where did the information that lead to the search come from?

The Attorney General’s effort to tie the arrest of what appears to be a true bad guy to the APPS program comes on the heels of recent criticism – like that in the articles and videos linked above – that APPS rarely actually leads to seizures from "violent felons" or "people found mentally ill by a court" as the Attorney General has claimed in order to justify the cost of the program.

We will continue to dig for more facts. Stay tuned for details about what we find., CalGunLaws' e-Bulletins, the Self-Defense DefenseRight to Keep and Bear ArmsMichelLawyers, and Shooting Range Lawyers informational Facebook pages and the @MichelLawyers Twitter feedare produced as a pro bono public service by Michel & Associates, P.C., a full service law firm. We appreciate all your legal business inquires and client referrals. These help support the many pro bono public services we provide on behalf of your right to keep and bear arms.

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