Articles Posted in Gun Crimes

Typically, it is unlawful for people previously convicted of felonies to possess weapons. As such, while owning a gun is legal for most people, convicted felons who are caught with guns can be charged with crimes. Depending on the nature of the person’s prior offenses, a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm can result in several years of imprisonment. This was illustrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed a defendant’s sentence to fifteen years in prison for possession of a firearm after prior convictions for serious drug offenses. If you are faced with weapons charges, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable Sarasota gun crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had three prior convictions under Florida law for the delivery or sale of cocaine. The court determined these offenses to be serious drug crimes under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), which mandated an increased minimum sentence of fifteen years in prison. The defendant was ultimately sentenced to 195 months in prison, after which he appealed.

Serious Drug Offenses Under the Armed Career Criminal Act

On appeal, the defendant argued that the sentencing court erred in determining that his prior three convictions for selling cocaine constituted serious drug crimes. Specifically, he argued that to determine whether a state crime is considered a serious drug offense, a court should identify the elements of the generic federal offense and then assess whether the state crime meets those elements.

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Typically, a person convicted of a felony under Florida law will lose the right to possess a firearm. Thus, while the possession of a firearm is usually legal for a person with no criminal past when a gun is owned or obtained by a person who has previously been convicted of serious crimes, it may constitute a criminal offense. In a recent case, a Florida court discussed what information the prosecution must give to a person charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in a case in which the defendant argued he was not properly advised of his rights prior to pleading guilty. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is prudent to speak to a trusted Sarasota gun crime defense attorney to discuss your options prior to entering a plea.

Factual History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant pled guilty to a charge of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. After sentencing, he appealed, and the appellate court affirmed his conviction. The defendant appealed again, and his conviction was ultimately vacated by the United States Supreme Court. the matter was then remanded back to an appellate court to determine whether the defendant’s indictment was jurisdictionally deficient and whether the district court committed a clear error in failing to advise the defendant that the prosecution was required to prove that the defendant knew he was a felon when he possessed the gun, prior to the entry of a plea.

Possession of Firearm by a Felon Charge

Due to the fact that the defendant pled guilty, he was required to demonstrate the existence of a jurisdictional defect for his sentence to be vacated. In evaluating whether a defect in a federal indictment is jurisdictional, the court must assess whether it charged the defendant with a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States. Although the failure to include an element may render the indictment inadequate, it does not remove jurisdiction from the federal court.

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