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A veteran arrested for unlawfully carrying three firearms and 256 rounds of ammunition near the U.S. Capitol will get his day in the U.S. Supreme Court ( Class v. United States , U.S., No. 16-424, review granted 2/21/17 ).
Rodney Class entered an unconditional guilty plea, but attempted to argue on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the statute violated his Second Amendment rights.
The D.C. Circuit held that his unconditional plea barred the constitutional argument.
The federal circuits are split on the issue. Some agree with the D.C. Circuit, others allow any constitutional challenge, and three circuits allow only challenges claiming that the statutes are facially unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court will likely seek resolve the split.
Class is a veteran who stowed three firearms in the trunk of his vehicle while visiting Washington. He parked his car in a public parking lot about 1,000 feet from the U.S. Capitol, not realizing the space was technically considered part of the Capitol’s grounds, where weapons are prohibited.
A U.S. Capitol Police officer thought she saw a gun holster inside the car. She arrested Class when he returned to his vehicle, and the accompanying search of his car uncovered the weapons.
Class pleaded guilty because he couldn’t attend the trial on the date it was set. The plea did not include express language about waiving his right to appeal, but Class understood that he was giving up the right to appeal, he said.
The D.C. Circuit held that he was procedurally barred from arguing that the statute prohibiting weapons on Capitol grounds violated his constitutional right to bear arms.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allow for no contest or conditional guilty pleas that leave the right to appeal intact, but that wasn’t the type of plea that Class entered, the court stated.
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