Connecticut Attorney Who Had Firearm Confiscated Loses Appellate Court Challenge
In a Second Amendment challenge, the state Appellate Court has upheld the confiscation of a West Hartford lawyer's guns after police determined that he was at risk of harming himself or others. Meanwhile, the lawyer, Donald Hope, who is a divorce mediator in West Hartford, contends that a bad reaction to medication precipitated the police incident.
According to court documents, West Hartford police responded to a 911 call on May 15, 2014, for a possible burglary at Hope's home. When the police officer arrived, Hope's wife, Susan, told the officer that she came home to find her husband standing in the kitchen with a .22-caliber rifle. Donald Hope instructed her to call 911 because he said he thought that he had heard an intruder in the home. Police officers inspected the home and did not find any signs of forced entry.
Donald Hope told police that he heard voices coming from the basement. The officers thought Hope seemed agitated and claim he told them people were hacking his computers and electronic devices. Hope later denied that he told police he heard voices in the basement. Hope's wife told police that her husband had become increasingly delusional and was alarmed to arrive home and find him standing with a rifle in his hands. The police decided to remove the firearms from the premises for safekeeping, a move Donald Hope contested but that his wife reportedly supported. Police also took him to the hospital in an ambulance for a psychiatric evaluation.In their subsequent investigation, police discovered that the previous day Hope had called police believing he had seen several intruders going through his West Hartford office. Police saw no signs of forced entry or that anything in his office was out of place.And the day after police were called to Hope's home, his daughter called 911 concerned about his delusions and confrontations with some neighbors. He was again taken to the hospital for evaluation.
The day after that, May 17, 2014, he was treated at the Institute of Living to have the medications adjusted that he took for an underlying health condition.Assistant State's Attorney Timothy Sugrue explained that police took the guns from the Hope home under the state's confiscation statute. Under the statute, the police, believing a person could potentially harm themselves or others, apply for what's called a risk warrant from a judge to seize the guns in the household. From there, the gun owner is entitled to a hearing within 14 days before a judge. There, the state must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the confiscation was warranted and the judge has the right to order the guns confiscated for up to a year.At Hope's hearing, Hartford Superior Court Judge Robert McWeeny opined that the state did present clear and convincing evidence and approved the gun seizure for one year.
McWeeny opined that even though the medicine had been adjusted, he was still taking them for an underlying health condition and they may have been causing the paranoia.Hope then asked the state Appellate Court to review the decision. Hope, who is representing himself, also challenged the gun seizure on Second Amendment constitutional grounds, arguing that he has a right to bear arms "in defense of hearth and home."In a seven-page per curiam decision, the appellate judges shot down both challenges.
The judges ruled that given the circumstances, the state confiscation statute trumped the U.S. Constitutional right to bear arms."We are sympathetic that the plaintiff's behavior in part may have been due to complications from the medicine that he was prescribed, but, in any event, the court clearly had a basis to reasonably find by clear and convincing evidence that, because of this behavior, the plaintiff posed an imminent risk of physical harm to himself or others," the appellate judges wrote.
Hope did not return a call seeking comment.
CHRISTIAN NOLAN, The Connecticut Law Tribune