Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Wilson: Upholding Conviction for Possession of Unregistered Sawed-off Shotgun

In United States v. Wilson, No. 17-12379 (Oct. 27, 2020) (Hull, William Pryor, Tjoflat), the Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence for possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun.

First, the Court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the prosecution, holding that the National Firearms Act does not violate the Second or Tenth Amendments.

Second, the Court held that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction.  The Court clarified that the government was required to prove that the defendant was aware of any feature of the weapon that subjected it to registration.  Here, the evidence established that the defendant knew that his shotgun was either was less than 26 inches long or had a barrel of less than 18 inches, and that he knew it was not an antique.

Third, the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress evidence discovered during a traffic stop.  After making a valid stop traffic stop, the officer was allowed to arrest the defendant because there was probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a criminal offense, namely refusing to comply with a lawful order to produce his driver’s license.  The Court also found that the subsequent search of the vehicle was a lawful inventory search because the police standard operating procedures mandated towing and impounding where the operator is arrested or the car created a traffic hazard, both of which existed here.

Fourth, the Court held that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel at trial.  And, in any event, there was no prejudice on the facts here.

Finally, the Court upheld a sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(a)(4)(B) for being a “prohibited person” under 922(g).  The evidence showed, and the defendant did not dispute, that he was an unlawful user of marijuana at the time he committed the offense.  The government did not need to show that he was under the influence at the time he possessed the gun.