If you are facing gun charges, a recent Supreme Court ruling may provide a legal basis for you to defend yourself against the charges – even if you committed the crime in question.
This is because, under the 2022 ruling, the underlying crime you are charged with might be unconstitutional. Here is what to know about this evolving area of the law.
Second Amendment History
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is a foundational right. It states explicitly: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Put simply, many people interpret this amendment as the right to bear arms.
For many years, the amendment went unchallenged. However, a series of legal cases brought about contradictory findings. Some courts held that the amendment only pertained to the right to be protected by a militia rather than providing a private right to hold weapons. Other courts held that the Second Amendment did provide a right to private citizens to possess firearms. However, certain people were barred from possessing firearms, such as those convicted of felonies or subject to domestic violence orders of protection.
In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court clarified that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms for historically lawful purposes, including self-defense at home. However, the Court explicitly stated that this right was not unlimited and did not affect the right to regulate where weapons could not be possessed, such as schools or government buildings.
In the 2022 case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court held that a state law that required someone to provide cause to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense was contrary to the Second Amendment. The court went a step further by establishing a new text-and-history test that the government would have to pass to show their law regulating guns would have to pass to be considered constitutional.
Under the text-and-history test, courts must determine whether the plain text of the Second Amendment covers an individual’s conduct. If it does, the government must show that the regulation in question is consistent or relevantly similar to the country’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
Example: Hunter Biden Case
To see how the holding in the Bruen case may affect gun charge cases, let’s look at a notable case, namely Hunter Biden’s.
Hunter Biden, the President’s son, has been indicted on gun charges. Here’s some background on the case:
- Hunter Biden applied to purchase a handgun in October 2018.
- Question 11.e. on Form 4473 requires a purchaser to certify they are not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.
- On the application, Hunter Biden certified he was not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.
- It is alleged that he is, in fact, a user of and addicted to a controlled substance and knew his certification was false.
- The grand jury indicted Hunter Biden on September 14, 2023 due to these allegations.
Under the Bruen ruling, the regulation in question, namely to fulfill the requirements set out in Form 4473, must be evaluated under the text and history of the Second Amendment. The government would need to be able to point to relevant discussions when the Second Amendment was adopted or the 14th Amendment was ratified.
Since many drug control laws did not exist until the 20th century, Biden may be able to argue that the regulations that led to his indictment do not pass the text-and-history test. Gun possession for people with drug problems likely was not contemplated by the forefathers, so the charges should not stick. If the court agrees, the charges could be dismissed against Hunter Biden and also lead to further dismantling of cumbersome gun laws.
How Bruen and a Knowledgeable Lawyer Can Help
At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we stay informed about the latest legal decisions that can affect our clients. The Bruen decision has allowed criminal defendants across the country to challenge the constitutionality of various federal firearms offenses. Subsequent rulings in some circuits have also found that the ruling makes various firearm offenses unconstitutional and overturns previous court decisions to the contrary.
In light of the Bruen decision, it is possible that you may be able to make a Second Amendment-based attack regarding the gun law you are being charged with. We encourage you to contact our firm today to discuss your case and this possibility with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer.