Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Guideline in harmony with Statute

In U.S. v. Vega, No. 03-13329 (Dec. 8, 2004), a panel of the Court on rehearing (Tjoflat, Barkett & Siler b.d.), reversed its prior published decision at 365 F.3d 988 (Sentencing Commission exceeded its statutory authority when it provided for an enhancement for weapons possessed under a "grandfather" clause of the weapons ban), and upheld the sentence enhancement.
The Court pointed out that the statute at issue,18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A) criminalizes false statements made in connection with the transfer of firearms, and does not distinguish between pre and post weapons ban statements. The Commission could rationally have decided to penalize more severely false statements made, as here, in connection with semiautomatic weapon transfers, than in connection with less dangerous firearms. Thus, although the statutes did not criminalize possession of certain "grandfathered," pre-ban, weapons, the statute at issue, which criminalized the making of false statements, could apply to both pre and post-ban statements. The Court noted that Congress had upped the penalties for use of a semiautomatic weapon during a crime of violence when it passed the weapons ban, and the Guidelines' increased penalty for false statements in connection with these weapons was in fact consistent with Congressional intent.