After Rehaif, the court made it easier for the Court of Appeals to confirm that a federal felon had a crime


Opinion analysis

Defendants of federal felons who failed to defend their rights in the court of first instance according to the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling Rehaif v. United States Facing “uphill” to obtain a new trial or plea procedure, The court said on Monday in Greer v. United States with United States v. GaryJustice Brett Kavanaugh wrote to the court for unanimous confirmation Gree And 8-1 majority reversal Gary, It was pointed out that “if the defendant is actually a felon, he will not be able to bear the burden of an apparently wrong examination showing a’reasonable probability’, but for Rekhaf Wrong, the outcome of the district court litigation will be different. “

Rekhaf Break new ground By holding for the first time, in 18 USC § 922(g), Federal regulations prohibit a person with a previous felony conviction from owning a gun, and the government must prove that the defendant knew he was a felony when he owned the gun. Gree with Gary Involving the appellate court’s criteria for ordering a new trial or plea hearing for a person convicted of an initial failure to invoke section 922(g) Rekhaf. This group includes defendants who were previously convicted Rekhaf It has been decided, but there is still an appeal pending when the decision is made.

Kavanaugh’s opinion clearly shows that when the defendant failed to claim Rekhaf At his trial or plea hearing, he has the responsibility to prove to the Court of Appeal that he is “very likely” to provide sufficient evidence on remand to prove that he did so. Is not In fact, he knew his status as a felon, so that he would not be convicted again. “The bottom line in these two cases is very simple. In the case of a serious offender, Rekhaf Unless the defendant first presents sufficient arguments or statements in the appeal to prove that he will provide evidence in the trial that he does not actually know that he is a felon, the error is not the basis for simple error relief,” Kavanaugh concluded.

“Common sense,” he continued, showing that most people convicted of felonies know their legal status as convicted felonies. “In felony possession cases where the defendant was actually a felony when he owned the gun, the defendant faced a difficult challenge in trying to satisfy the substantive rights of the apparently false test based on the arguments he did have. Not knowing that he was a felony. It’s simple: if a person is a felon, he usually knows that he is a felon.’The status of a felon is not something that people will forget.'”

Kavanaugh realizes that there may be exceptions. “Of course, in some cases, the felon defendant can fully prove on appeal that he will provide evidence in the district court to prove that he did not actually know that he was a felon when he had a gun,” he wrote.However, when the defendant confiscated Rekhaf When filing a claim in the district court, he is obliged to produce some evidence in the appeal to prove that he did not understand the situation.Even for “confiscation” one Rekhaf The claim is only because they were convicted before Rekhaf Even decided. “If the defendant does not present such arguments or statements in the appeal, the Court of Appeal will have no reason to believe that the defendant will provide such evidence to the jury, and therefore there is no basis to conclude that there is a’reasonable possibility’. If not, the outcome will be different. different Rekhaf error. “

According to the court, neither Gregory Greer nor Michael Andrew Gary took this burden. Kavanaugh pointed out that Greer had stipulated that he was convicted of a felony in the trial to prevent the government from significantly putting this fact before the jury. In his guilty plea hearing, Gary admitted to the court that he was convicted of a felony.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor agreed with the court’s opinion that Greer had failed to bear his burden, but she refused to come to the same conclusion as Gary. She wrote: “Unlike this court, I will not decide in the first instance whether Gary can prove that the error affected his substantive rights in a specific case.”

Sotomayor also emphasized that most of the language about the defendant’s heavy burden shows that they have indeed done it. Is not Knowing their status as felons only applies to common error analysis, when the defendant fails to present his Rekhaf Right in the court of first instance.If the defendant does raise Rekhaf the following, Then the innocuous error analysis applies to appeals, and the government has the responsibility to prove that the court of first instance failed to apply Rekhaf Sotomayor said that there is no doubt that it is harmless.

The court held that if the defendants claim that they have different results, they must prove that there is a reasonable possibility Rekhaf The following rights doomed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Gary. When the error of the court of first instance is regarded as a structural error-such as invalid assistance from a lawyer-the court of appeal must automatically cancel the conviction and send it back to the court of first instance because the error is considered to have completely affected the following procedure , So much so that the Court of Appeals can say that the court cannot begin to put these pieces together again. But Cavano did a brief work on this approach, saying: “As the court’s precedent shows, the omission of a single element in the jury order is not structural.” Even Sotomayor rejected the structure. Wrong way.

Most of the content in the summary and oral arguments focused on where the Court of Appeal can find evidence that the defendant has always known that he is a felon under section 922(g), thus avoiding the need for remand. In Gree, The Court of Appeals looked at the complete district court records from outside the trial records to find evidence of such knowledge in the pre-judgment report.Kavanaugh’s opinion clearly confirms this approach, but at the same time it seems to think it is redundant, because Greer’s 1997 Supreme Court ruling stipulated Old Chief v. United States He was previously convicted of a felony, which constitutes sufficient evidence of this knowledge. (The defendant usually enters Old chief Provisions in the section 922(g) case so that the government does not need to include previous convictions in evidence, which may harm the jury. ) Gary, The court’s opinion does not seem to have any problem, that is, when the Court of Appeals found evidence of the status of a felon in Gary’s confession that he had been convicted of a felony before, whether it could view the report before the sentencing-admitting that this happened in At each section 922(g) plea hearing.

The following Gree with Gary, The question is probably what kind of evidence is sufficient to prove “reasonable possibility”, but for Rekhaf Wrong, the outcome of the district court litigation will be different. In other words, in what typical cases, the defendant has shown enough possibility that he did not know his status as a felon when he had a gun, so he was entitled to a new trial or plea hearing? Sotomayor provides several possible factual patterns.

“The most obvious is that as the court Rekhaf“A person who was previously convicted of a crime but only received a suspended sentence may not know that the crime is punishable by more than one year’s imprisonment,” she wrote. “Moreover, even if the defendant has been imprisoned for more than a year, it may not necessarily Eliminate the reasonable doubt that he knows his status as a felon. For example, the defendant may not understand that a juvenile court conviction or a misdemeanor under state law may be a felony under federal law. Or he may not understand that pretrial detention is included in his final judgment. “



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