SCOTUS Rules on Case Involving Felons with Firearms

The Supreme Court ruled on a case Monday that will have implications for gun rights for felons.

The highest court in the land issued a ruling on Greer v. United States that someone who is convicted of being in possession of a firearm as a felon must have known they were a felon at the time of possession.

“After Rehaif, the Government in a felon-in-possession case must prove not only that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm, but also that he knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm.

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This may seem like a technicality, but it is important for a few reasons. The step provides an additional burden for prosecutors in future cases. Also, he unanimous decision signals some unity on the court. Also, it shows the court was not unreasonably hostile to any gun-related cases, possibly a good sign for upcoming 2nd Amendment cases before the court.

Beyond that, the majority opinion explains the case in question and the impact it has for the individual involved:

Prior to Rehaif, Gregory Greer and Michael Gary were separately convicted of being felons in possession of a firearm in violation of §922(g)(1). Greer’s conviction resulted from a jury trial during which Greer did not request—and the District Court did not give—a jury instruction requiring the jury to find that Greer knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm. Gary pled guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. During Gary’s plea colloquy, the District Court did not advise Gary that, if he went to trial, a jury would have to find that he knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearms. On appeal, both Greer and Gary raised new mens rea arguments based on Rehaif. Greer requested a new trial based on the District Court’s failure to instruct the jury that Greer had to know he was a felon to be found guilty. Applying plain-error review, the Eleventh Circuit rejected that argument. Gary argued that his guilty plea must be vacated because the District Court failed to advise him that, if he went to trial, a jury would have to find that he knew he was a felon. The Fourth Circuit agreed with Gary, holding that the failure to advise him of that mens rea element was a structural error that required automatic reversal even though Gary had not raised the argument in the District Court.

The high court is expected to release more key decisions in the weeks to come.

“There are 18 cases still outstanding from the current term, including disputes over Obamacare, religious rights and voting rights,” wrote the site SCOTUSblog. “The next opinion day that we know of is Thursday.”

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