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National 2nd Amend. Political & Legal Discussion Discuss national gun rights and 2A related political topics here. All advice given is NOT legal counsel.

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  #1  
Old 06-23-2019, 1:05 AM
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Default SCOTUS - Rehaif - Must Prove Defendant Knew They Were In Possession and Prohibited

Here's one that seems to have slipped under the radar on us. I can't seem to find it in site search anyway.

Supreme Court Backs Immigrant Unaware of Legal Status in Gun-Possession Case

Quote:
The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that an illegal immigrant unaware that his legal status barred him from possessing a gun cannot be prosecuted for possession, in a decision that could affect thousands of previous cases... The Court’s decision will force prosecutors to prove that a member of a group barred from having a firearm knows they are a member before they can be convicted of a crime... Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined Breyer in the majority, while Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented...
The case is REHAIF v. UNITED STATES.

Quote:
Petitioner Rehaif entered the United States on a nonimmigrant student visa to attend university but was dismissed for poor grades. He subsequently shot two firearms at a firing range. The Government prosecuted him under 18 U. S. C. §922(g), which makes it unlawful for certain persons, including aliens illegally in the country, to possess firearms, and §924(a)(2), which provides that anyone who “knowingly violates” the first provision can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. The jury at Rehaif’s trial was instructed that the Government was not required to prove that he knew that he was unlawfully in the country. It returned a guilty verdict. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Held: In a prosecution under §922(g) and §924(a)(2), the Government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm...
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Old 06-23-2019, 5:25 AM
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So it turns out that ignorance of the law is a defense after all,
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Old 06-23-2019, 6:07 AM
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Arrested for shooting two guns at a firing range? Were they watching this guy for something else and this is all they thought they could get him on?
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Originally Posted by Wherryj View Post
I am a physician. I am held to being "the expert" in medicine. I can't fall back on feigned ignorance and the statement that the patient should have known better than I. When an officer "can't be expected to know the entire penal code", but a citizen is held to "ignorance is no excuse", this is equivalent to ME being able to sue my patient for my own malpractice-after all, the patient should have known better, right?
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Old 06-23-2019, 12:22 PM
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HAMID MOHAMED AHMED ALI REHAIF

Probably on somebody's radar.
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Old 06-23-2019, 12:23 PM
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Turns out the situation is far more complex:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/reason....reign-s/%3famp
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Old 06-23-2019, 5:07 PM
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Originally Posted by mshill View Post
So it turns out that ignorance of the law is a defense after all,
I doubt this will be equally applied to U.S. citizens. Sounds like just another law that illegals won't be held to.
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Old 06-23-2019, 5:26 PM
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Bad link above:

https://reason.com/2019/01/15/many-f...ost-foreign-s/
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Old 06-23-2019, 5:32 PM
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So if someone bought a rifle legally and did not keep up to date on the b.s. changing laws in Ca, got arrested for a configuration that is illegal today. Seems like the SCOTUS would be on his side.
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Old 06-23-2019, 8:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skip_Dog View Post
So if someone bought a rifle legally and did not keep up to date on the b.s. changing laws in Ca, got arrested for a configuration that is illegal today. Seems like the SCOTUS would be on his side.
This was my knee-jerk, first response. Then I realized that there is a difference.

In the case, the decision was that the prosecution must prove that the individual knew...
  1. They possessed a firearm
  2. They were prohibited (in a prohibited category) from possessing a firearm
In a sense, it's simply a reinforcement of the concept that the prosecution is required to prove you are guilty of the crime you are charged with. As has been discussed, numerous times, "possession" isn't always as straightforward as some believe. As was observed in a post above with a link to Volokh, 'status' of even an illegal immigrant in relation to being 'prohibited' isn't as simple as many would prefer. However...

In your example, you not only knew you possessed a firearm, but you are not in a prohibited category, only the configuration of the rifle is prohibited.

That would be a superficial and plain reading.

Delving deeper, I suspect a lawyer could, potentially make things a little more complicated in terms of "culpable mental state" and "collateral legal question." Given the increasing complexity of gun laws, particularly here in California, my guess is that an argument might be made, at some point, that a very real case could be made, in some circumstances, that one did not "knowingly" (intent) violate the law and that defendant’s mistaken impression about a collateral legal question causes him to misunderstand his conduct’s significance, thereby negating an element of the offense.

Put another way, if one cannot obtain answers to "is it legal" questions from DOJ, if law enforcement officers leave it to the DA and cannot definitively answer "is it legal," if defendant could provide a documented series of attempts to avail themselves of an answer, if they cannot rely on local gun shops (where the FUD is rife), if you were to show visits to gun forums where the question is asked and answered in multiple "yes, no, and maybe" responses (as frequently happens on this site), and if you get the right judge...

Then maybe?
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Old 06-23-2019, 10:48 PM
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Staples v. USA saved a guy who didn’t know he had a MG:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-1441.ZO.html
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Old 06-24-2019, 3:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryMan92 View Post
Staples v. USA saved a guy who didn’t know he had a MG:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-1441.ZO.html
Application of Staples v. United States, 114 S. Ct. 1793 (1994), to Firearms Embraced by the National Firearms Act

The jury instruction suggested on that page is useful and one should take note of the last line (which I emphasize)...

Quote:
In order to convict the defendant of a violation of the National Firearms Act, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had knowledge of the characteristics of the weapon that brought it within the definition of a firearm under that Act. Thus, in this case, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant [knew the firearm was designed [or modified] to fire automatically] [knew he possessed a shotgun with a barrel length shorter than 18 inches or with an overall length less than 26 inches] [knew he possessed a silencer] [knew he possessed a grenade]. Such knowledge can be established through circumstantial evidence.
Remember, the scenario presented is...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skip Dog
So if someone bought a rifle legally and did not keep up to date on the b.s. changing laws in Ca, got arrested for a configuration that is illegal today...
Note that in Rehaif, Staples is cited 8 times. In one of those instances, you see the following...

Quote:
And we doubt that the obligation to prove a defendant’s knowledge of his status will be as burdensome as the Government suggests. See Staples, 511 U. S., at 615, n. 11 (“knowledge can be inferred from circumstantial evidence”).
I suspect that "not keeping up-to-date" with changes in the laws would be less ironclad than a defendant would like when it comes to ignorance of the general assault weapons laws in California. At what point does "not keeping up-to-date" become "willful ignorance/blindness" and at what point does "willful ignorance/blindness" provide circumstantial evidence of intent/knowledge? I'm not sure I'd want to be the test case attempting to discover those boundaries.
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Old 06-24-2019, 7:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrappedinCalifornia View Post
I suspect that "not keeping up-to-date" with changes in the laws would be less ironclad than a defendant would like when it comes to ignorance of the general assault weapons laws in California. At what point does "not keeping up-to-date" become "willful ignorance/blindness" and at what point does "willful ignorance/blindness" provide circumstantial evidence of intent/knowledge? I'm not sure I'd want to be the test case attempting to discover those boundaries.
Dicta from Judge Benitez’ ruling in the LCM case might come into discussion:
Quote:
(Page 11, Line 2): The statutes concerning magazines alone are not simple.25

(Page 11, Line 18): 25 Here is an example of the way in which the state’s firearm laws are so complex as to obfuscate the Second Amendment rights of a citizen who intends to abide by the law. A person contemplating either returning home from an out-of-state hunting trip with a 30- round rifle magazine or who is considering buying, borrowing, or being given, or making his own 15-round handgun magazine, will have to do the following legal research.[...]

(Page 12, line 21): It is enough to make an angel swear.
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Old 06-24-2019, 1:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malfunction View Post
Thanks for this link. It actually answered some questions I've had about how foreign tourists can shoot guns at ranges.
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