Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Smith: Stolen gun and Felon in Possession are different offenses for Double Jeopardy

In U.S. v. Smith, No. 07-13202 (June 30, 2008), the Court rejected the argument that Double Jeopardy bars the government from simultaneously prosecuting and sentencing a defendant for possessing stolen firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), and for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
The Court rejected the government’s argument that the defendant had waived his Double Jeopardy challenge when he pled guilty to both charges. The Court explained that although generally a guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional challenges to a conviction, one exception to this rule exists when the claim is that the charge is one which may not constitutionally be prosecuted – as when the charge violates Double Jeopardy. Thus, the Court turned to the question of whether the prosecution was valid.
Applying the Blockburger test, which examines whether each offense requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not, the Court concluded that no Double Jeopardy violation occurred. Proving that a defendant was a convicted felon, and proving that he knew the gun was stolen, are different.