Florida Court Discusses a Possession of a Firearm Charge by a Convicted Felon

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.

In the subject case, the court found that the language of the indictment sufficiently stated that the defendant violated a federal statute, and averred that the defendant committed a crime against the United States. As such, it was not jurisdictionally deficient. Further, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that his guilty plea was invalid constitutionally. Specifically, the court held that the district court did not commit a clear error in failing to advise the defendant that the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew he was a convicted felon at the time of the alleged offense, prior to the defendant’s entry of his plea. Thus, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Seasoned Sarasota Attorney

If you are accused of owning or possessing a weapon in violation of Florida law, it is advisable to contact an attorney regarding your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned gun crime defense attorney who is adept at seeking favorable outcomes in criminal matters, and he will advocate aggressively on your behalf, to help you pursue just results. You can contact Mr. Hanlon at 941-462-1789 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.

If I committed the crime does that mean I must enter a plea of guilty?

Absolutely not! The American system of justice requires proof before anyone can be found guilty under the law. How much proof? Proof beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. In other words, when you sit down with a criminal defense attorney and explain your situation he should be weighing in his mind how your case will play in front of a jury. I can assure you the prosecutor is doing the same thing. In fact, all trial lawyers (both criminal and civil) measure the strength and weakness of their case based on how they think it will play before a jury. As a consequence, whether you actually committed the crime is of no consequence. The question you want answered is whether the prosecutor can PROVE you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. How do you determine that? By consulting with an experienced lawyer specialized in the area of criminal law.

Can I feel comfortable telling a criminal defense attorney everything I did when I come in for an initial consultation?

Yes you can. Everything you tell a criminal defense attorney made for the purpose of obtaining legal services or for the purpose of furthering the attorney’s representation falls within the attorney/client privilege. The attorney/client privilege exists even during an initial consultation where the client chooses not to retain the lawyer. The communications between a lawyer and his client are privileged to permit the lawyer to prepare for litigation and render effective legal advice. This is why it is so important for the client to realize that total disclosure is critical to effective legal representation. Full disclosure prevents your criminal defense attorney from guiding you in the wrong direction. You should also be aware that a lawyer’s obligation to maintain your confidences is even broader than the attorney-client privilege. Every lawyer must act in the best interest of his/her client. Only under a very narrow set of circumstances can that responsibility be abandoned.

Is there more than one way to get my case dismissed?

Yes. There are several ways your case can end up getting dismissed. First, of course, is the level of proof the prosecution may have against you. The prosecution may not have enough evidence to prove your guilt. When you sit down for a consultation with your lawyer he/she should be able to give a very good idea how powerful the prosecutor’s case might be. Second, there could be police misconduct involved in your case that could lead to a pretrial motion that could severely damage the prosecutor’s case or lead to a reduction of the charge. The police violate the defendant's rights every day. They might violate your right to privacy by conducting an unlawful search or seizure. The police could violate your right to remain silent or right to counsel by taking your statement without proper notice of your Fifth Amendment rights. It is important to understand that a violation of your Fifth Amendment rights will only lead to a dismissal of your case when proving the criminal charge against you hinges on the admission of that statement into evidence. Some criminal charges can be proven without the use of your statement to police. While these two methods can bring about a dismissal of your criminal charge there are other approaches to bring about the same result. In order to find out whether your case involves facts that could lead to a dismissal you should contact the office of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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