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Hope v. State

Appellate Court of Connecticut

February 9, 2016

DONALD HOPE
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT

         Argued December 3, 2015

          Application for a warrant to seize firearms belonging to the plaintiff, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, geographical area number fourteen, where the court, Suarez, J., granted the application; thereafter, following a hearing, the court, McWeeny, J., ordered the firearms seized for a period of one year, and the plaintiff appealed to this court.

          Affirmed.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the trial court granting an application for a warrant to seize his firearms for a period of one year pursuant to the statute (§ 29-38c) pertaining to the seizure of firearms from a person posing a risk of imminent personal injury to self or others. Police officers responded to an emergency call from the plaintiff's wife, who told them that she had arrived home to find the plaintiff holding a rifle and claiming that he had heard an intruder in their home. The responding officers did not locate any intruders or find signs of forced entry. The plaintiff, who was agitated, stated that he had heard voices coming from the basement and that people were hacking his electronic devices. The plaintiff's wife reported that he was becoming increasingly delusional and that she had been alarmed to come home and find him with a rifle. The officers took custody of the plaintiff's firearms for safekeeping, and, subsequently, prepared an application for a warrant pursuant to § 29-38c. After a warrant was issued, the court held a hearing to determine whether the firearms should be returned. One of the officers who had applied for the warrant testified that the plaintiff previously had called police to report a burglary at his office, which was unfounded, and that the plaintiff's daughter had contacted police concerned about his increasing delusions and confrontations with neighbors. The plaintiff's wife testified that she believed that the delusions were the side effect of certain medicine that the plaintiff was taking for an underlying condition. The court concluded that the evidence clearly showed that the plaintiff posed an imminent risk of physical harm to himself or others because he suffered from paranoia that required medication, which may have contributed to his delusions, and the court ordered that his firearms be seized for one year. On appeal, the plaintiff claimed that § 29-38c violates the second amendment to the United States constitution and, alternatively, that the trial court erred in finding that the state proved by clear and convincing evidence that he continued to pose a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or others.

         Held :

         1. Although the plaintiff's firearms had been returned to him, his appeal was not moot because it was reasonably possible that the outcome of the appeal would affect an upcoming determination by the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners regarding whether to reinstate his firearms permit and, therefore, the appeal fell within the collateral consequences exception to the mootness doctrine.

         2. Contrary to the plaintiff's claim, § 29-38c does not implicate the second amendment as it does not restrict the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of their homes; § 29-38c restricts for up to one year the rights of only those whom a court has adjudicated to pose a risk of imminent physical harm to themselves or others after affording due process, and the statute therefore is an example of what the United States Supreme Court has characterized as the longstanding presumptively lawful regulatory measures that prohibit the possession of firearms by felons and mentally ill persons.

         3. The trial court's finding that the state proved by clear and convincing evidence that the plaintiff posed a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or others was not clearly erroneous, as that finding clearly had a basis in the testimony that the plaintiff exhibited delusional behavior, that he called the police twice reporting burglaries that the police determined did not happen, that he responded to his delusion by drawing a firearm, and that his behavior concerned his wife and daughter.

         Donald Hope, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

         Timothy J. Sugrue, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Gail P. Hardy, state's attorney, and Michael Weber, senior assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

         Lavine, Alvord and Sullivan, Js.

          OPINION

          [163 Conn.App. 37] PER CURIAM.

          The plaintiff, Donald Hope, appeals from the judgment of the trial court that ordered his firearms to be seized for a period of one year pursuant to General Statutes § 29-38c (d) after finding that he posed a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or other individuals. On appeal, the plaintiff claims (1) [163 Conn.App. 38] that § 29-38c violates the second amendment to the United States constitution; [1] and (2) that even if ยง 29-38c is constitutional, the court erred in finding that the state had ...


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