In June of 2016, a 53-year-old truck driver, Guy A. Smith was arrested in Kenosha for having a loaded revolver in the cab of his truck. Smith didn’t have a Wisconsin concealed carry permit. He claimed that he didn’t need one. The Wisconsin Constitution is very clear on the subject (as above).
In 1998, the people of Wisconsin had voted for constitutional carry in a state referendum amending the state constitution.The amendment, which created Article I, Section 25, is very clear and received 74% of the vote.
From Article I Section 25:
The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.
Smith and his attorney insisted on a jury trial. Kudos to Wisconsin Carry for assisting with the case. Smith’s attorneys used a constitutionality defense from the start, and showed that it’s not illegal under Wisconsin law to carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle.
The statue on transport of weapons says:
” … no person may place, possess, or transport a firearm, bow, or crossbow in or on a vehicle, unless one of the following applies: 1. The firearm is unloaded or is a handgun.”
The prosecuting attorney, Thomas Binger, stated that the law could not mean what it said, because it would invalidate the Wisconsin statute on concealed carry. The judge corrected the attorney, noting that it would only invalidate the statute “in cars”.
The defense position “would suggest anyone without a permit can drive around with a loaded weapon in the vehicle,” Binger said. “I decline to read the statute so broadly.” He said Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, Act 35, would have no meaning.
“No meaning in cars,” Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder clarified.
The case was scheduled to go to trial, starting with jury selection on August 28. But before jury selection began, the state asked that the case be dismissed.
Kenosha County Case Number 2016CM000842 State of Wisconsin vs. Guy A Smith
All charges against Guy A Smith in this case have been dismissed. These charges were not proven and have no legal effect. Guy A Smith is presumed innocent.
The upshot is that the Smith case won’t establish a legal precedent. The state supreme court won’t have a chance to clarify that Article 1, Section 25 actually means what it says.
Still, the case is known and will have an effect. More people will exercise their constitutional rights. And more such cases will likely come before the courts.
It’s clear the case against Mr. Smith should never have been brought. How many people have plea bargained a guilty verdict because they didn’t have the moral courage or resources of Mr. Smith? How many took plea bargains because they expected the courts to ignore the state constitution, the law, and simple justice?
The prosecutors should have known this was a doomed case from the beginning. Perhaps they did.
It appears the prosecution has chosen to exercise punishment by process. It cost Mr. Smith considerable time and money to challenge the unjust prosecution. He took the risk that an ideologically driven judge would ignore the constitution and the law. It’s happened before.
Perhaps Mr. Smith can recoup some losses with a wrongful arrest lawsuit. Or not. It has happened before in Wisconsin.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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