Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, April 28, 2005


In Small v. U.S., No. 03-750 (April 16, 2005), the Court held that the phrase "convicted in any court" contained in the prohibition in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) on firearm possession by any person convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year encompassed only domestic, not foreign, convictions.
The Court noted that it is appropriate to assume that Congress has domestic, not foreign, concerns in mind when it writes criminal statutes. Further, foreign convictions can involve conduct that is not criminal under Amercan laws. The Court pointed out that in view of the language creating exceptions to the firearm possession prohibition, reading the statute to include foreign convictions could create "anomalies," where a foreign conviction, for example for antitrust violations, would count whereas a domestic one would not. The Court recognized that the broad purpose of the statute of protecting public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of those likely to create a threat would support a broad reading of the law. But it concluded that Congress paid no attention to foreign convictions.