United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
Payne is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and
ammunition by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1), the federal
“felon-in-possession” law. He now moves to
dismiss the indictment, arguing that because his prior
convictions were set aside under the District of
Columbia's Youth Rehabilitation Act (“YRA”),
the Government cannot show that he has a qualifying predicate
felony as required by Section 922(g)(1). The Court agrees. It
will therefore grant his motion and dismiss his indictment.
early morning hours of a Friday in March, police officers
conducted a security sweep of a parking garage near a D.C.
night club. ECF No. 1-1 at 1. They noticed an unoccupied car
that had a purple (yes, purple) handgun and an extended
magazine sticking out of the rear pocket of the driver's
seat. Id. Later, they watched three people enter the
car and drive away. Id. The police stopped the car.
Id. Because they noticed a gun in the car, the
officers detained the driver and two passengers, one of whom
was Payne. Id. The officers saw the purple handgun
and extended magazine were now on the rear floorboard at
Payne's feet. Id. Payne was ultimately indicted
by a federal grand jury for violating 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1). See ECF No. 2.
922 makes it unlawful for “any person who has been
convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment
for a term exceeding one year” to “possess in or
affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition.” 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Congress later narrowed the scope of
Section 922 in the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of
1986, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a).
states that what constitutes a “crime punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” is
determined “in accordance with the law of the
jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held.”
Id. § 921(a)(20). But any conviction that
“has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person
has been pardoned or had civil rights restored shall not be
considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless
such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights
expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport,
possess, or receive firearms.” Id.
has twice been convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment
for a term exceeding one year. See ECF No. 26-2. The
first felony conviction was for attempted robbery. See
id. at 3. The second was for assault with significant
bodily injury. See id. at 6.
both convictions were ultimately set aside under the YRA,
D.C. Code § 24-906. See id. The YRA provides
that the sentencing court may, in its discretion,
“unconditionally discharge” a youth offender
before the end of any sentence imposed. See D.C.
Code § 24-906(a), (e). Any such discharge automatically
sets aside the offender's underlying conviction.
each conviction, the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia unconditionally discharged Payne from the sentence
it imposed before he completed it. See ECF No. 26-2
at 3, 6. Payne's convictions were thereby set aside or
expunged. Id. The Superior Court issued an
“Order of Discharge and Certificate Setting Aside
Conviction” for each expunged felony. Id.
These certificates read in relevant part:
• “The offender has successfully completed the
conditions of his/her sentence prior to the expiration of the
maximum period previously imposed by the Court, ”
• “Therefore, it is hereby ORDERED that the
offender be unconditionally discharged from the imposed
sentence and, ”
• “It is further ORDERED that by this discharge
the conviction shall be set aside, and the Court shall issue
a copy of this order and Certificate to the offender, and all
appropriate agencies, pursuant to D.C. Code 24-906(e).”
See id. at 3. The certificates do not mention any
firearms prohibitions. See id.
his convictions were set aside under the YRA, and because the
set-aside certificates did not expressly bar him from
possessing a firearm, Payne argues that he cannot be
convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He has therefore
moved to dismiss the indictment against him. ...