Firearm Offenses

The Federal Docket

United States v. Werle (9th Cir. June 2022)

The Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s denial of an inmate’s motion to vacate under 28 USC 2255. The Court held that the inmate had not pleaded guilty knowingly where he was not informed of the mens rea for unlawful firearm possession under Rehaif, despite evidence that he had previously been sentenced to prison for over a year and had been previously convicted of several felonies.

United States v. Jimenez-Shilon (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a defendant’s constitutional challenge to his conviction for possession of a firearm by an unlawful alien. The Court held that the Second Amendment did not provide a right for illegal aliens to possess firearms since that right did not exist at the time of the amendment’s ratification.

United States v. Gardner (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s ACCA-enhanced sentence. While the defendant’s three prior convictions under Alabama law were punishable by less than ten years under Alabama’s sentencing guidelines, the Court relied on the statutory maximum of over 10 years for those convictions in holding that they were “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA.

United States v. Stoglin (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence after holding that the district court improperly enhanced the sentence under 18 USC 3559(c). The Court concluded that the defendant’s prior convictions for aggravated assault under Texas law were not convictions for a “serious violent felony” under 3559(c) because a defendant need only act “recklessly” to be convicted.

United States v. Perry (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime under 924(c). The trial court had erroneously instructedhe jury that it could find the defendants guilty of those charges if they used or carried a firearm in relation to either the “crime of violence” charged by their RICO conspiracy count or the drug trafficking crime charged, but RICO is not a “crime of violence” under Fifth Circuit precedent.

United States v. Tucker (5th Cir. May 2022)

The Fifth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by someone adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution. The trial court erroneously instructed the jury that it could find the defendant guilty based on finding he was either adjudicated a mental defective OR had previously been committed, though the indictment only alleged the former and not the latter.

United States v. Abreu (3rd Cir. May 2022)

The Third Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence after holding the district court improperly enhanced the defendant’s offense level under the Guidelines based on the defendant’s prior conviction for conspiracy to commit second degree murder. The plain text of the relevant Guidelines provision does not include “conspiracy” under the definition of “crime of violence,” and courts may not rely on commentary to increase a defendant’s Guidelines range when the commentary goes beyond the plain text of the Guidelines.

United States v. Chavez (10th Cir. March 2022)

The Tenth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of attempted bank robbery charges under 18 USC 2113 where the district court found that the defendant’s attempt to hold up two victims at gunpoint and force them to withdraw money from an ATM did not amount to an attempted “bank robbery” since the defendant would be robbing them, not the bank. Deepening a circuit split between the Fifth Circuit and Seventh Circuit, the Tenth Circuit reversed, concluding that “using force to induce a bank customer to withdraw money from an ATM is federal bank robbery.”

Seabrooks v. United States (11th Cir. May 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to vacate their sentence under 28 USC 2255. The Court held that the district court erred in instructing the jury on aiding and abetting in an unlawful possession of a firearm case where the government did not present any evidence that the defendant knew his co-defendant was prohibited from possessing firearms. The Court also held that Rehaif is retroactive to cases on collateral review and discussed the standard for procedural default under 2255 at length.

United States v. Espinoza-Roque (1st Cir. February 2022)

The First Circuit vacated a defendant’s 46-month sentence for various firearm offenses, holding that the district court erred in finding that the defendant was an “unlawful drug user” at the time of his offense. The enhancement was based on the defendant’s statement to probation, during the drafting of his PSR, that he smoked marijuana daily in the years leading up to his arrest. The Court held that this statement failed to establish the temporal nexus for the defendant’s drug use and his possession of a firearm, especially since the defendant had also told probation that he sometimes went “weeks” without smoking marijuana, and thus the district court clearly erred in relying on it for the enhancement.

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