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Firearm Offenses

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United States v. Melvyn Gear (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a nonimmigrant visa holder, but held that the Government must prove more than merely the fact that a defendant’s visa is labeled as a nonimmigrant visa. The Government must show that the defendant knew his visa’s classification or knew the offending characteristics of the visa that makes his firearm possession unlawful.

United States v. Julian Mora-Alcaraz (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s order suppressing a defendant’s statements under Miranda. The officers had interrogated the defendant without advising him of his Miranda rights after they approached him in marked cars and separated him from his seven-year-old son. However, the Court remanded for the district court to determine if the defendant’s subsequent consent to search his vehicle was voluntary.

United States v. Deangelo Johnson (11th Cir. December 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence, rejecting his Rehaif challenge. The Court held that there was plain error in the indictment failing to allege the element of knowledge and the lack of evidence proving that knowledge, but held that the defendant’s substantial rights were not affected because there was sufficient evidence that he knew of his prohibited status as a domestic violence misdemeanant.

United States v. Malik Nasir (3rd Cir. December 2020), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Third Circuit held that inchoate offenses are not included in the definition of “controlled substance offenses” under the career offender guidelines because commentary to the Guidelines is not binding when it is inconsistent with or broader than the text of the Guidelines. The Court also held that a court reviewing a defendant’s Rehaif challenge under plain error review is limited to considering the record presented at trial, not the whole record, and a new trial is warranted where there is no evidence presented to a jury regarding the defendant’s knowledge of his prior felony.

United States v. Tamaran Bontemps (9th Cir. October 2020)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Court held that there was reasonable suspicion to detain and search the defendant based solely on the officer believing he had a concealed firearm (illegal in California) after noticing a “very large and obvious bulge” under the defendant’s sweatshirt. The Court also discussed other kinds of “suggestive bulges” that can give rise to reasonable suspicion, such as when a defendant is hiding drugs.

United States v. James Innocent & Elijah Jones (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences of two defendants for possession of a firearm by convicted felon, holding that neither met their burden of showing that plain error under Rehaif affected their substantial rights. The Court noted that “most people convicted of a felony know that they are felons” and that the defendant had failed to meet his burden despite showing he had a low IQ and had never served more than a year in jail or prison. The Court distinguished the case from pre-Rehaif cases where a defendant had litigated their felon status or maintained that they were allowed to possess a firearm.

United States v. Toddrey Bruce (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress where the defendant had been apprehended by law enforcement after fleeing upon their approach. The Court held that the officers had reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant where they were responding to a 911 call at 3AM in a high-crime area and the caller had noted that two men were arguing, one with a gun, and there could be shooting at any time.

United States v. Justin Taylor (4th Cir. October 2020)

The Fourth Circuit held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery, like conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, does not constitute a “crime of violence” under 924(c) because under the categorical approach an attempt to commit the offense does not invariably require use of force or threat of force.

United States v. Bernandino Gawala Bolatete (11th Cir. September 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction of receiving and possessing an unregistered firearm silencer, holding that the National Firearm Act falls within Congress’ power to tax since penalties intended to aid in the collection of firearm transfer taxes are constitutional. Based on precedent, the Court foreclosed challenges that transfer taxes and penalties apply to silencers and penalties used to aid collection of firearm transfer taxes apply despite the recipient not being obligated to pay the transfer tax themself. The Court also held there could be no plain error if there is no precedent on questions applying fee jurisprudence in the Second Amendment context and whether silencers were “Arms” or “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes” under the Second Amendment.

DOJ Charges 14,200 People with Firearms Offenses in 2020

October 13, 2020. The Department of Justice announced today that it has charged over 14,200 people with various kinds of firearms offenses in 2020, with potentially more to come.The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta announced that its office brought in at least 336 of the 14,200 firearms cases, and the charges include possession of a firearm by someone in a prohibited class (such as felon, illegal alien, or drug user), possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime of drug trafficking offense (924(c)), unlawful purchase of a firearm, and false statements in connection with registering a firearm with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, such as by lying on an ATF Form.

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