United States v. Chovan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 11-18-2013
  • Case #: 11-50107
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judges Hawkins and Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), barring a person convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a firearm, does not violate the Second Amendment on its face; a defendant is not entitled to the “civil rights restored” exception if the triggering misdemeanor did not divest defendant of other fundamental rights.

Daniel Chovan was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse in California in 1996. Under California state law, he would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for ten years, but under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9), he was prevented from possessing one for life. Chovan was arrested for possession of a firearm in 2010. He moved to dismiss the possession charge, claiming that the statute was violative of the Second Amendment, or that the “civil rights restored” exception to the federal statute applied to him because under the California statute he would have regained his right to possession. His motion was denied and the district court entered in a conditional guilty plea, preserving his right to appeal the motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit rejected Chovan’s claim of exception, stating that his civil rights had not been “restored” as a result of California’s time limit on firearm possession, because his original misdemeanor conviction had not taken away his “core civil rights” such as voting, jury participation, or the right to hold public office. The panel rejected Chovan’s claim that this reasoning brought an Equal Protection issue, as the statute has “several adequate legal mechanism” for restoring this right and thus does not place felons in a better position regarding the restoration of their rights. On Chovan’s Second Amendment challenge, the panel conducted a review of other circuits to determine that intermediate scrutiny should apply. The panel upheld the law, finding that the government has an important interest in “preventing domestic gun violence,” and that keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence–difficult under other laws as domestic violence convictions are usually not felonies–is substantially related to that goal. The panel then rejected Chovan’s as-applied challenge, reasoning that application of the statute was also substantially related to the government’s interest. AFFIRMED.

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