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7th Circuit: Machine gun possession not violent crime

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A man’s conviction on federal firearm charges was vacated Tuesday when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that possession of machine guns was not violent crime, citing a case earlier this year that applied the same rationale to possession of sawed-off shotguns.

The appellate panel vacated the mandatory minimum 15-year sentence imposed on Michael L. Brock by Judge Larry J. McKinney of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The judges remanded the case for resentencing after Brock was convicted of violating the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).

“In United States v. Upton, 512 F.3d 394 (7th Cir. 2008), we held that unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun counted as a violent felony under ACCA. Applying Upton, the District Court ruled that possessing a machine gun was also a violent felony and that Mr. Brock’s three separate convictions for possessing machine guns triggered ACCA,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the court in United States of America v. Michael L. Brock, 11-3473.

“Although the district court properly applied controlling circuit law, we have recently overruled Upton on this point, holding now that unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun no longer counts as a violent felony,” the court opined, citing United States v. Miller, ___ F.3d ___ (7th Cir. 2013). “The reasoning of Miller applies equally to unlawful possession of a machine gun, so we vacate Mr. Brock’s sentence and remand for sentencing.”

The court noted that ACCA requires use of explosives to qualify as a violent felony, and the Miller ruling brings consistency to the range of weapons covered by the act. “(A)s dangerous as all these weapons can be, we see no principled basis for distinguishing between sawed-off shotguns and machine guns in terms of whether mere possession is a violent felony under ACCA. We must therefore vacate Mr. Brock’s sentence. He is entitled to be resentenced without being subject to the enhanced penalties of ACCA,” Hamilton wrote.

On a separate argument, the 7th Circuit ruled that Brock’s wife’s testimony against him did not violate the spousal testimonial privilege because she testified at his pretrial detention hearing.

 “Given the importance of the spousal testimonial privilege, it would also be entirely appropriate and often prudent for the court, even in the absence of an objection, to make sure that the testifying spouse understands that she cannot be required to testify against her spouse, especially if she does not have her own counsel,” Hamilton cautioned. In this case, Brock lacked standing because his wife waived the privilege, the court ruled.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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