Collected Court Rulings

Enos v. Holder (2010)

People v. Miguel Flores (2008) The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, Division One determined it was not a violation of the Second Amendment (as interpreted by the United State Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller) for a person to be prohibited from possessing firearms for misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 245(a)(1) (assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury) pursuant to section 12021(c)(1). In addition, the court found that the restrictions against carrying a concealed firearm under section 12025(a)(2) and carrying a loaded firearm in a public place (section 12031(a)(1)) were constitutional.

People v. Hyung Joon Kim (2009) The California Supreme Court outlined the scope of the Writ of Error Coram Nobis. The decision limited the availability of the Writ to modify judgments only in cases where a judgment was entered where facts existed, unknown to the court at the time of judgment, would have prevented the rendition of the judgment (for example in statutory rape cases where the victim is in fact over 18 years of age).

People v. Avelino Ceja Villa (2009) In the Villa case, a sister case of Kim, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed the “custody” requirement of habeas corpus. For purposes of habeas corpus, “custody” means actual custody (imprisonment) or constructive custody (parole, probation, bail). A person must be in “custody” in order to bring a challenge to their conviction or custody using the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

People v. Luis Villa (2009) In this case the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District determined that a firearm restriction until the age of 30 for individuals determined to be wards of the juvenile court was constitutional under the Second Amendment as interpreted by the United State Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller.

United States v. Hayes Decision (2009) The Supreme Court held that the type of relationship does not have to be an “element” of the offense for the conviction to qualify as an MCDV and trigger the firearm disability requirement above.

United States v. Skoien (2010) The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the firearm restriction for those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence under federal law. The court did not address whether such a restriction was constitutional for individuals who possessed firearms long after their conviction took place.

United States v. Vongxay (2010) Mr. Vongxay challenged his conviction for being a “‘felon’ in possession of a firearm” under federal law (18 USC 922(g)(1)). He claimed that the conviction violated his Second Amendment due process and equal protection rights as discussed in D.C. v. Heller ((2008) 554 U.S. 570). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

Relying on the dicta of Heller, which stated “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on the longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons…”, (554 U.S. at 626) the Court of Appeals determined that Heller did not render 922(g)(1) unconstitutional under Mr. Vongxay’s due process challenge. (U.S. v. Vongxay (9th Cir. 2010) 594 F.3d 1111, 1115).

The court relied on pre-Heller precedent to support its decision. In Young, court had previously determined that non-violent felons can be prohibited from possessing firearms. (Vongxay, 594 F.3d at 1116, citing  United States v. Younger, (9th Cir.2005) 398 F.3d 1179, 1192). This precedent combined with other post-Heller decisions upholding the restriction against felons, (594 F.3d at 1117) sealed the fate of Mr. Vongxay’s due process challenge. The Vongxay analysis of the Second Amendment concludes with the most concerning statement, and while the court states the conclusion is not “definitively resolved,” it reasons “‘the right to bear arms does not preclude laws disarming the unvirtuous citizens (i.e. criminals)….’” (594 F.3d at 1118)(citations omitted). Just how far the definition of “unvirtuous citizens” should extend, the court did not address, but the obvious concern is whether the Ninth Circuit considers jaywalkers or those with speeding tickets to be “unvirtuous” enough to be precluded from Second Amendment protection.

Using the above arguments for support, along with another pre-Heller decision, (Lewis v. U.S. (1980) 445 U.S. 55) the court decided that because the individual right established by Heller does not apply to felons, rational basis should be used to determine whether the “‘felon’ in possession of a firearm” restriction violates Mr. Vongxay’s equal protection guarantee under the Fifth Amendment. (594 F.3d at 1118-19) With such a low burden, of course, the court determined Mr. Vongxay’s right was not violated and his conviction under United States Code, Title 18, section 922(g)(1) was justified.