Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Innocent: Affirming 922(g) Convictions Over Rehaif Challenge

 In United States v. Innocent & Jones, Nos. 19-10112, 18-15210 (Oct. 8, 2020) (William Pryor, Tjoflat, Hull), the Court affirmed 922(g) convictions over a Rehaif challenge.

Applying plain error review, the Court agreed that the defendants’ pre-Rehaif indictments were erroneous in light of Rehaif, and that error was now plain.  But the Court concluded that the defendants could not show a reasonable probability of a different result, because circumstantial evidence established that each knew of their felon status.  Although one defendant had never served more than a year in prison and had  a low intelligence score during a competency evaluation, that was not enough to meet his burden in light of his four prior felony convictions.  The other defendant admitted he was a felon at the time of arrest, had a prior felony conviction for being a felon in possession, had multiple prior felonies for which he served many years in prison, and immediately dropped the gun when the police approached.   The Court rejected the defendants’ arguments that plain error review should not apply at all.

 The Court also affirmed an ACCA enhancement based in part on Florida aggravated assault.  The defendant invited the error at sentencing by agreeing that this offense qualified as a violent felony.  And, in any event, he could not show plain error because circuit precedent foreclosed his argument.