Law School Case Brief
United States v. Jones - 601 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2010)
Double jeopardy principles have a particular application for crimes of possession. Generally, possession is a course of conduct; by prohibiting possession Congress intended to punish as one offense all of the acts of dominion which demonstrate a continuing possessory interest in a firearm. Where there is no proof that possession of the same weapon is interrupted, the government may not arbitrarily carve a possession into separate offenses. Double jeopardy protects against government attempts to charge separate dates in separate counts where possession was a continuous course of conduct. Simultaneous possession of a firearm and ammunition should be punished as one offense. However, where a defendant has possessed different weapons at different times or places, the government may treat them as separate units of prosecution and charge multiple counts.
Defendant Jones appeals his convictions and sentences on four counts: (1) knowing possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon on June 1, 2004, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); (2) knowing possession of a firearm and ammunition by a controlled substances user on June 1, 2004, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3); (3) knowing possession of ammunition by a convicted felon on June 18, 2004, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and (4) knowing possession of ammunition by a controlled substances user on June 18, 2004, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3). Jones argues that double jeopardy principles require the joining of all four counts. More specifically, Jones argues that the government charged him multiple times for the exact same behavior, thereby arbitrarily carving one continuing act of possession into separate counts. He asserts that the Superseding Indictment is multiplicitous, and that the district court erred by allowing him to be tried on the separate counts.
Were the indictments a violation of double jeopardy principles?
The jury specifically found that Jones knowingly possessed a firearm on June 1, 2004, and that he possessed .38 caliber ammunition on that same date. It also specifically found both that Jones possessed .38 caliber ammunition on June 18, 2004, and that he possessed .44 caliber ammunition on June 18. Because the jury found that Jones possessed a firearm on a separate date from the ammunition, the possession charged is not a continuing course of conduct. Additionally, while Jones was found to be in possession of .44 caliber ammunition on June 18, 2004, he was not charged in Counts One and Two with possession of the same. That being the case, possession of .44 caliber ammunition on June 18, as specifically found by the jury, is a separate element of the crime for which Jones was convicted in Counts Three and Four. The inverse is true for possession of the firearm -- it is an element of Counts One and Two, but not Counts Three and Four.
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