In U.S. v. Nix, No. 04-13397 (Feb. 9, 2006), the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that his conviction for being a felon-in-possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) should be vacated, because he fell under one of the § 921(a)(20) exceptions. The defendant claimed that because his Alabama state drug trafficking conviction – the felony offense which supported the § 922(g)(1) prosecution – never caused him to lose his right to possess a firearm under Alabama law, his situation was akin to a defendant whose civil rights had been restored following a conviction, and who was therefore not liable under § 922(g)(1).
The Court pointed out that the § 921(a)(20) exception applied to persons whose civil rights have been restored. Nix, even though he never lost the right to possess a firearm as a result of his Alabama conviction, did lose other civil rights, and these rights were not restored at the time he possessed the firearm that triggered the federal § 922(g) prosecution. The Court distinguished cases involving other States, where the defendant’s civil rights were automatically restored upon completion of sentence. Here, Nix had lost civil rights as a result of his Alabama conviction, and none of the rights he had lost had been restored when he was caught with firearms.