In United States v. Joshua Grant the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that each factual incident where a “prohibited person” unlawfully possesses a firearm can only support one single conviction. You only get one conviction even if the defendant is prohibited from having a gun for two separate reasons under 922(g).
RELEVANT FACTS: Grant has gun one time, with priors, gets two sentences
Grant had two prior convictions which each separately made it illegal for him to have a gun under 18 USC Section 922(g). First, Grant could not possess a gun because he was a convicted felon. Sec. 922(g)(1). Second, Grant could not possess a gun because he was previously convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. Sec. 922(g)(9).
In a plot twist, Grant did in fact possess a gun. Grant was arrested an police found a .380 handgun in his pocket. Based on this single incident, the Government indicted Grant on two separate charges.
Count One was for being a felon in possession of a firearm under 922(g)(1); Count Two was for possessing a firearm after a domestic violence conviction in violation of 922(g)(9). Grant pleaded guilty “open” to both charges (i.e., he did not have a plea agreement) without objection to the imposition of either sentence.
Does Double Jeopardy Clause prevent multiple sentences for the same crime?
On appeal, Grant argued for the first time that his two separate convictions and sentences violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. With some narrow limitations, the Double Jeopardy Clause prevents the Government from imposing multiple separate punishments for the same distinct offense. According to Grant, that is exactly what happened to him with the two separate 922(g) convictions based on one incident of possessing a gun unlawfully.
HOLDING: Yes, Grant’s multiple sentences violate the Double Jeopardy Clause.
The Sixth Circuit determined that the Government violated Grant’s right to be free from multiple punishments for the same criminal offense when it imposed separate convictions under 922(g). According to the Sixth Circuit, Congress did not clearly intend to allow a court to impose multiple punishments for one incident which violated separate parts of 18 USC Section 922(g).
The court said that only one conviction may result from a single incident of unlawfully possessing a firearm under 922(g). If multiple 922(g) convictions are obtained for one single incident of possessing a firearm, then the Double Jeopardy Clause rules would be violated.
WHAT DOES THE GRANT CASE MEAN?
This was an issue of first impression (meaning they had not decided this question in a published decision before) for the Sixth Circuit to decide. The Sixth Circuit joined the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th Circuit Courts in reaching this conclusion.
If you received multiple 922(g) convictions for one incident of unlawfully possessing a firearm your constitutional rights might have been violated. Contact our office via email at [email protected] or telephone at 972-483-4865 to see if we can help you fight your case.