Gun offenses are serious crimes in Florida, under both state and federal laws. In a recent case out of Pinellas County, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit explained that the feds have the right to impose strict penalties for gun crimes. The court also made clear that those penalties may be even more harsh when the person charged has a prior criminal record.
A defendant was convicted of two counts of robbery in Pinellas County in 2008. Seven years later, he was charged with possessing a firearm. Federal law bans convicted felons from owning or possessing guns. After he pleaded guilty to the crime, prosecutors asked a federal judge to give him a longer stint behind bars because of his previous robbery convictions, which the prosecutors characterized as crimes of violence. Federal sentencing guidelines provide for an enhanced sentence when a person has previously been convicted of such a crime.
The court took the prosecutors’ advice, but it also said it would account for the fact that the defendant admitted his guilt. The court sentenced him to 30 months in prison and another three years of supervised release, near the high end of the recommended penalty. He later appealed the decision, arguing that the court wrongly determined that his previous convictions were for crimes of violence.
The Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the defendant on appeal. The court noted that the guidelines define crimes of violence as those that entail “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force” or the “burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involved use of explosives, or [a crime that] otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” More importantly, the court said the guidelines list robbery among a number of crimes that fall within this definition. The Eleventh Circuit also pointed to its 2011 decision in U.S. v. Lockley, in which the appeals panel said Florida robbery should be considered a crime of violence.
The court also made clear that the federal government is authorized to make gun possession by a convicted felon a federal crime. The panel explained that the government’s authority stems from the Constitution’s commerce clause, giving the feds the right to regulate anything “in or affecting commerce.” In this case, the defendant’s gun was manufactured outside the state and brought into Florida. That was enough of a tie to interstate commerce to bring it under the federal government’s authority, the court said.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater gun crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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