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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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