State and federal law generally preclude people convicted of felonies from owning weapons. As such, if a law enforcement agent finds a firearm in the possession of a convicted felon, it could lead to criminal charges. A person must be aware that he or she is a felon to be convicted of violating the federal law barring possession of a firearm by a felon.
Merely because an indictment for unlawful possession of a firearm fails to include the knowledge element of the offense does not mean the defendant was automatically prejudiced, though. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. If you are charged with a gun crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Tampa weapons crime defense lawyer to discuss your case.
The Defendant’s Indictment and Conviction
Allegedly, a police officer approached a group of people on a street corner when he saw one of the men point a gun at the crowd. A chase ensued, and the police eventually apprehended and arrested three men, including the defendant. The defendant was indicted for numerous offenses, including being a felon in possession of a gun. After he was indicted, the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that a defendant must know he belongs to a class of people barred from owning firearms to be convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun.
It is reported that the government then amended the indictment to state the defendant had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison. The defendant moved to dismiss the new indictment as insufficient, but his motion was denied. He was subsequently convicted and appealed.
Sufficiency of an Indictment in a Felon in Possession of a Firearm Case
On appeal, the defendant argued that the indictment was defective because it failed to inform him that he needed to know of his status as a convicted felon and failed to charge a complete criminal offense. The court rejected both arguments.
The court explained that district courts have jurisdiction over all offenses against the laws of the United States. As such, if an indictment fails to charge an offense against the United States, the court will lack jurisdiction over the matter. Jurisdictional defects only occur when the court lacks the power to adjudicate a matter at all, though. Here, the court found that the indictment properly set forth a criminal offense, and therefore, the court had jurisdiction over the matter.
Further, the court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the indictment failed to provide him with proper notice that the government needed to prove knowledge of status, finding that an indictment is legally sufficient if it contains the critical elements of the charged offense, notifies the defendant of the charges, and protects him from double jeopardy. As such, it affirmed his conviction.
Speak to a Seasoned Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
While gun ownership is lawful for most people, convicted felons can face significant penalties if they are caught with weapons. If you are accused of a firearms offense, it is smart to speak to an attorney regarding your potential defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Tampa defense lawyer with ample experience defending felons in possession of guns, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Hanlon via the form online or at 813-228-7095 to schedule a consultation.