A Legal Irony—Federal Firearms Law

For my fellow law geeks:

18 USC §921, which defines terms for federal firearms crimes, defines a conviction of a “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” in terms of state law, so a Texas deferred adjudication probation for a felony is not a conviction, and does not bar firearms possession.

§921’s definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” by contrast, doesn’t incorporate state law, so a deferred for a misdemeanor domestic violence assault may bar firearms possession under federal law.

The bottom line? For federal firearms law, a domestic violence aggravated assault deferred is better than a domestic violence assault deferred.

8 Comments

  1. A bit off topic to this post, but what is your feeling regarding the Supreme Court’s overruling of the Chicago firearms ban, as it relates to those convicted under that law? Should the court (either automatically, or by petition) vacate any convictions since that law has been found unconstitutional? I don’t follow constitutional law too close, but this one really interests me, since most constitutional law opinions don’t have such a huge impact on criminal convictions like this one does….I hate to think that there would be a large number of “bad guys” that could have charges thrown out and possibly let out of jail, but at the same time this one sure falls under the premise of “better to let 100 guilty go than 1 innocent convicted.” I can just see someone caught up under this law that has no record and was NOT committing another crime (the thought that comes to mind is someone traveling with a stored handgun in the car that is not from Chicago, and happens to be pulled over and admits to the firearm in the car….)

  2. The key words here are “crime punishable by.” What punishment, if any, is actually imposed is irrelevant. If the crime charged is “punishable” by at least a year and a day, then, short of an acquittal or nolle pros, no guns for you. Right?

    1. No. The key word is “convicted.” if state law doesn’t treat the outcome of a felony case as a conviction, then neither does federal firearms law.

      MCIDVs are a different story.

  3. Has anyone ever had a client charged in federal court with possession of a firearm after completing ‘regular” probation in Texas courts? I have always assumed they could be but have never seen one.

  4. In Kentucky, DUI 1st has max jail sentence of 30 days, while being in a state of Public Intoxication (not just alcohol) has a maximum jail sentence of 90 days. Go figure

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