Archive | Rehaif

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

Rehaif claim cannot be brought in second or successive § 2255 motion because the decision involved statutory interpretation and did not render a “constitutional” rule as required by AEDPA’s gatekeeping provision.

In Mata v. United States, 2d Cir. No. 20-1875, a panel of the Court (Park, Nardini, and Menashi) held in a per curiam opinion that federal prisoners cannot rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct 2191 (2019), to challenge their underlying conviction or sentence in a second or successive § 2255 motion. This is so because while § 2255(h)(2) requires that a successive motion be based on (among other things) “a new rule of constitutional law,” Rehaif’s holding – that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) requires proof that the defendant knew that s/he fell within a relevant class barred from possessing a gun – was a matter of statutory interpretation and not based on the Constitution.…

Posted by
Categories: 2255, Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: 2255, Rehaif

Continue Reading
Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Glimmer of Hope for Challenging pre-Rehaif Guilty Pleas to § 922(g)(1)?

In “a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) [], 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.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).

The most common § 922(g) offense is gun possession by someone “who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).  Rehaif requires such a person to have known — when he possessed the gun — that he had previously been convicted of such a crime.

In United States v. Balde, 943 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2019), the Second Circuit held someone wishing to challenge his pre-Rehaif guilty plea must show a “reasonable probability that . . . [he] would not have entered the plea” if he …

Posted by
Categories: Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: Rehaif

Continue Reading
Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

In a felon-in-possession case (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)), a person charged in a single count with possessing a firearm on two separate dates, during a six-day period, isn’t entitled to an instruction that the jury “must agree unanimously on a particular date or dates on which he possessed a firearm.” Rather, possession of a firearm “is a continuing offense,” so the jury only needs to find “unanimously that the defendant possessed the firearm at any point” during period of the alleged possession.  United States v. Estevez, No. 17-4159-cr, 2020 WL 3022983 (June 5, 2020).

In Estevez, the sole count of the indictment alleged that Estevez possessed a firearm on two different dates: on February 21, 2016 and February 26, 2016. The charge was based on two separate shooting incidents, on those days. But a puzzling aspect of the Opinion is that it makes no reference to last years’ Supreme Court decision in Rehaif in discussing the elements of a § 922(g) offense. That hole in the Opinion is discussed at the end of this blog entry.

The unanimity instruction

At trial, Estevez requested “a particularized, rather than a general, unanimity instruction.” He  insisted that “all [12] jurors needed to agree either that he possessed the Firearm on February 21 or that he possessed it on February 26 (or that he possessed it on both dates)[.]”  2020 WL 3022983 at *4. The district court denied the request and gave a “general unanimity instruction[.]” Id.

Posted by
Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

Continue Reading
Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Some Summary Orders: Bikes, Guns, Fines

On April 27, 2020, the Second Circuit issued three summary orders in criminal matters.

In United States. v. Cuello, No. 19-2053, the Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of suppression of a gun found during a traffic stop. This “traffic” stop was of a bike that did not have proper “head and tail lights,” in violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1236(a). During the stop, police asked the bike rider for identification and his “bicycle registration.”

Did you know that “bicycle registration” is a thing? Apparently, the Syracuse Revised General Ordinances, Section 29-1 requires every person in the city of Syracuse who owns a bicycle operated in the city to register that bicycle “with the chief of police.” Well.

When the bike rider failed to produce his registration, police asked him about a black backpack he was wearing. Because how suspicious is it to be riding …


Posted By
Categories: 922(g), fine, reasonable suspicion, Rehaif, traffic stop

Continue Reading
Saturday, March 28th, 2020

A Note on § 922(g) Clients

As the defense community continues to focus on clients at elevated risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent ruling from the Fourth Circuit offers new support for vacating the convictions of clients who pleaded guilty to gun possession in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).  An element of that offense is that, at the time the defendant possessed a gun, he “knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).  For most clients, that means knowing of a prior conviction for “a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).

In United States v. Gary, ___ F.3d ___, 2020 WL 1443528 (4th Cir. Mar. 25, 2020), the court held the failure to advise a defendant of the Rehaif element at his guilty plea is “a structural error that requires …

Posted by
Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: 922(g), Rehaif

Continue Reading
Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Rehaif Claims — Keep ‘Em Comin’!

To convict someone of unlawful gun possession under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), “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.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).  For the most commonly charged § 922(g) violation, that means proving the defendant was subjectively aware of the fact — at the moment he possessed the gun — that he had “been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).

The mere fact of having a felony conviction is not enough.  There must be proof the defendant was subjectively aware of the conviction at the moment he possessed the gun.  Judge Sullivan explained this in a ruling blogged about here.  See also Rehaif, 139 S. …

Posted by
Categories: Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: Rehaif

Continue Reading
Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Second Circuit Vacates A Firearm Possession Plea Under Rehaif

The Court of Appeals issued its first opinion vacating a conviction under Rehaif v. United States, 19 S.Ct. 2191, 2194(2019), which held that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 922(g) requires proof that the defendant not only knowingly possessed a firearm, but that he knew at the time that he was a prohibited person. In this case, United States v. Balde, No. 17-3337-cr(November 13, 2019), the defendant pled guilty to possessing a firearm while an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States. The knowledge element established in Rehaif –- that he knew he was an alien unlawfully in the United States — was neither charged in the indictment nor admitted at his guilty plea. The government contended that he waived his right to appeal both in his plea agreement and in his plea. The Second Circuit rejected that argument, holding that Balde could not have waived his Rehaif


Posted By
Categories: Rehaif, Rule 11, waiver of appeal

Continue Reading
Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Rehaif Error Prompts New Trial– Despite Stipulation as to Prior Felony and Despite PSR Suggesting Defendant’s Knowledge of Prior Felony

To secure a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), “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.”  Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191, 2200 (2019).  For the most commonly charged § 922(g) violation, that means proving the defendant knew he had “been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”  § 922(g)(1).

Yet there was neither allegation nor proof of that in Wilfredo Sepulveda’s trial.  On the contrary, “the jury was wrongly instructed that ‘[t]he government need not prove that the defendant knew that his prior conviction was punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.'”  United States v. Sepulveda, 2019 WL 5704398, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 5, 2019).

Ruling on a motion under Fed. …

Posted by
Categories: Rehaif

Posted By
Categories: Rehaif

Continue Reading
Monday, August 5th, 2019

Second Circuit Throws Out § 924(c) Conviction Linked to Conspiracy . . . And Does Other Good Things, Including as to Rehaif

In today’s United States v. Watkins, the Second Circuit (Jacobs, Pooler, Wesley) vacated a conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) in relation to a conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.  Because § 924(c)’s residual clause is “unconstitutionally vague,” United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2336 (2019), a “crime of violence” under § 924(c) is limited to an offense that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”  Because a conspiracy never fits that bill, “Watkins’s section 924(c)(1)(A) conviction” — and all others based on conspiracy — “must be vacated.”

And in United States v. Prado, the court (Leval, Pooler, Hall) threw out more convictions, this time under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.  The Coast Guard had intercepted a speed boat in international waters, found three men aboard with …


Posted By
Categories: Davis, guilty plea, jurisdiction, Rehaif

Continue Reading