United States v. Stone

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 02-07-2013
  • Case #: 11-10618
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Trott for the Court; Circuit Judges Cudahy and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

The Supreme Court’s holding in Flores-Figueroa v. United States does not change the Ninth Circuit’s holding “that the government need not prove that a defendant knew the firearm or ammunition had traveled in interstate commerce in order to obtain” a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) because the interstate commerce portion is merely jurisdictional.

Shane Stone (Stone) was indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which bars felons from possessing ammunition. The statute lacks a mens rea requirement. Instead, the mens rea is in 18 U.S.C. §924, which states that ‘“whoever knowingly violates [§ 922(g)] … shall be fined.’” Before his trial began, Stone requested an instruction to require the “Government to prove that [he] knew” his ammunition “had travelled in interstate commerce.” In support, he cited Flores-Figueroa v. United States in which the Supreme Court interpreted a provision of a statute that imposed “a enhanced penalty on a person who ‘knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses’” another person’s identification “during the commission of certain predicate crimes.” Using “ordinary English grammar,” the Court concluded that “knowingly” applied “to the entire object of the sentence.” Thus, the defendant must know that “the means of identification” belongs to someone else. In the current case, the district court denied Stone’s request. During the trial, the Government provided no evidence that Stone knew that his ammunition had “traveled in … interstate commerce.” Stone was convicted. In his appeal, he argued that the “grammatical treatment” used in Flores-Figuera should “be applied to §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2).” The Ninth Circuit cited the majority’s opinion in Flores-Figuera, which stated that statutory interpretation was still a “contextual matter.” The Court noted, “the context in which §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) were enacted does not suggest Congress intended to extend the mens rea requirement to the interstate commerce element,” which was “purely jurisdictional.” Thus, Stone’s knowledge of his “ammunition’s interstate connection” was irrelevant. The Court held that Flores-Figueroa does not affect the Court’s “interpretation of §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2).” AFFIRMED.

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