Firearm Offenses

The Federal Docket

United States v. Willie Evans (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the district court’s finding that officers’ warrantless search of a home was justified under the “emergency aid exception.” The Court held that the officers had a reasonable belief that a dog’s whimpering inside the house was a human in need of emergency aid based on their initially responding to a 911 regarding gun shots, the defendant’s belligerent behavior prior to his arrest, and the officers’ belief that someone else may have been in the house.

United States v. Bernard Moore, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of challenges in affirming the defendants’ sentences for drug trafficking and unlawful possession of firearms, holding that the district court did not plainly err in shackling the defendants during trial without stating its reasons in the record and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interviewing jurors in camera regarding their safety concerns and summarizing those interviews for the parties. The Court also concluded that the indictments failure to allege the defendants’ mens rea as required under Rehaif v. United States did not deprive the court of jurisdiction and the plain error of convicting the defendants of unlawful possession of firearm did not warrant reversal where the government would have been able to prove their knowledge.

United States v. John Terry Chatman, Jr. (8th Cir. March 2020)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for obstruction of justice by attempting to kill a witness where the evidence showed that the defendant shot at an officer “out of frustration and retaliation” and not with the intent of “preventing a communication about the commission of a federal offense” to other other officers.

United States v. Ronald John Bankston, III (11th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that selling body armor is not sufficient to warrant an enhancement for “using” body armor under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.5, which enhances a defendant’s offense level if the defendant used body armor though “active employment in a manner to protect the person from gunfire” or “as a means of bartering.” The Court held that the definition of bartering applies to trading goods without the use of money.

United States v. Martin Johnson (4th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that a district court does not plainly err by failing to give a limiting instruction when admitting 404(b) evidence in the absence of a defendant’s request for such an instruction. Additionally, the Court held that robbery possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute under Maryland law are predicate “violent felonies” under the ACCA.

United States v. Dane Gillis (11th Cir. September 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for enticing a minor under § 2422(b) but reversed his conviction under § 373 for solicitation to commit a crime of violence, holding that kidnapping under § 1201(a) is not a “crime of violence” under the categorical approach applicable to § 373. The Court also held that the defendant’s right to a complete defense was not violated by the trial court’s proper rulings on the inadmissibility of the defense experts’ testimony.

United States v. Tyrius Eugene Smith (4th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), holding that the defendant was not a convicted felon under North Carolina law when he possessed firearms after receiving a “conditional discharge” for felony larceny.

United States v. Davis (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which criminalizes carrying a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence” or drug trafficking crime, as unconstitutionally vague. The decision was based on prior Supreme Court decisions striking down similar provisions defining “crimes of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16 and the ACCA.

Rehaif v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 922, which criminalizes possession of a firearm by certain groups of individuals (such as felons), has an intent element requiring that the defendant had knowledge of both his possession of a firearm and of his status in a class of individuals prohibited from possessing firearms.

United States v. Samir Benamor (9th Cir. June 2019)

The Court held that the “antique firearm defense” was an affirmative defense as opposed to an element of the 922(g). The Court acknowledged that it remains an open question whether the “antique firearm defense” is objective, meaning that the age of the firearm alone determines the availability of the defense, or whether the defense is subjective, meaning the defense applies when a defendant reasonably believes the firearm was manufactured before 1899.

Scroll to Top