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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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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