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Federal District Court Agrees with Defendant in Firearm Case and Vacates Guilty Conviction

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2022 | Weapons Offenses

In a recent firearm case coming out of a federal court in the southeast of the United States, the defendant’s appeal was successful. According to the defendant, the sentence he faced for a firearm offense was unnecessarily long, and the court should have calculated his incarceration time differently. The higher court agreed with the defendant, concluding that his sentence was incorrectly calculated and that the case should go back to the lower court so that the court could calculate the defendant’s sentence again.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with one count of knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition. Instead of taking this case to trial, the defendant pled guilty and attended a sentencing hearing, in which a United States Probation Office would determine how long the defendant would face incarceration due to this crime.

At this hearing, the defendant learned that he qualified for a mandatory minimum sentence because of a federal law called the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). This Act makes defendants in firearms cases face longer sentences if they have been convicted of certain other crimes at least three times. In this case, the defendant had been previously convicted three times with possession of marijuana. Specifically, he had possessed marijuana with intent to distribute in the proximity of a school. Because of these convictions, the Probation Office made his sentence longer than it would have been otherwise by referencing the ACCA.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that his prior state convictions did not meet the criteria for “serious drug offenses” under the ACCA, thus that he did not qualify for a longer sentence because of these convictions. Under federal law, serious drug offenses put defendants at risk of longer sentences for firearm crimes. According to the defendant, though, U.S. law does not define marijuana plants with less than .3 percent THC as marijuana. The marijuana he possessed in his previous three convictions was made up of a cannabis plant with less than .3 percent THC, which didn’t qualify as marijuana under federal law. Thus, there was no serious drug offense and the defendant’s sentence should not have been lengthened.

The court agreed with the defendant after examining the ACCA in depth. While the defendant had been convicted in the state of South Carolina, where marijuana plants with less than .3 percent THC do qualify as marijuana, the federal law around marijuana possession is different. Because of this mismatch in federal law and state law, the defendant should not have faced a longer sentence because of the ACCA.

After agreeing with the defendant, the court vacated his guilty verdict and sent the case back down to the lower court.

Are You Facing Firearm Charges in Virginia?

If you have been criminally charged with gun possession in Virginia, call Robinson Law, PLLC. We offer experienced, hard-hitting legal strategies, and we understand that every criminal case has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. We thus create a unique plan of attack for every client in order to make sure that we offer the best defense we can. For your free consultation, give us a call at 703-542-3616.