U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

October 2012 Archives

Prison is for Punishment, Not Rehabilitation?

Is prison about punishment or rehabilitation? Under Tapia v. United States, a defendant's rehabilitative needs should not be considered when imposing a sentence. It seems then, that the Supreme Court's view of the purpose of a prison is to punish.

The question before the Fourth Circuit here, is whether a person's rehabilitative needs can be considered in determining an appropriate sentence for revocation of parole. James Bernard Bennett, Jr. kindly volunteered to be the test case by using cocaine, robbing someone, and being caught with a firearm while on parole.

Does Maryland's 'May Issue' Concealed Carry Law Violate 2nd Amendment?

When someone wants to legally pack heat, the laws applicable to the concealed carry of a firearm typically will fall into one of three types: "shall issue," "may issue," and no permit laws. Maryland is one of ten "may issue" states, meaning when a gun owner wants a concealed carry permit, the state has the discretion to deny a permit.

Raymond Woollard sought a permit in 2002, after his son-in-law broke into his house in Baltimore County. Woollard and his son subdued the intruder with two legally possessed guns. He subsequently obtained a concealed carry permit. While his first renewal was approved, a second renewal was denied in 2009, as was the subsequent appeal, reports The Washington Post.

Jail for Cursing in Court, But No Time for Tardiness

Robert Peoples is going to have to learn some respect. Down in the Fourth Circuit, the legal profession is still held in high regard. There is a certain decorum that is expected of all those who step foot in the hallowed halls of a mid-Atlantic courtroom.

Peoples was pressing multiple claims against prison officials due to his treatment while he was a guest of the state. After he showed up late during jury selection, Judge Cameron McGowan Currie warned him to be on time. He was late on the first day of trial. Judge Currie stated that next time, his claims would be dismissed with prejudice.

Fourth Circuit to Gun Shop: Break the Law Before Fighting It

Hire Order, Ltd, and Robert Privott, are both good ol' boys and good boys. These two entities, which operate federally-licensed gun shops in Virginia and North Carolina, follow the law to perfection. That law, however, prevents these two licensed dealers from selling guns to each other at a gun show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' predecessor issued Revenue Ruling 69-59 in 1969. This ruling essentially stated that holders of federal firearms licenses could not sell guns at any location outside of their licensed premises, including gun shows. In 1986, the Firearms Owners' Protection Act amended the law to state that sales could occur at gun shows in the same state as the licensed premises. The ATF's 1969 ruling continues to bar out-of-state gun show sales.

Protective Order Not Enforced, But In Force? No Gun for You!

Court cases are often decided on the narrowest of issues. This case, however, was decided on the narrowest of letters: an "i" versus an "e".

Jimmy had a gun. He was also the subject of a protective order, though it was not being enforced. The result? A conditional guilty plea to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), which prohibits gun possession while a domestic violence protective order is in force.

Court: We Don't Like It, But It's Not Plainly Unreasonable

Raymont David Brown was busted for cocaine possession after a positive urine test. For an ordinary person, that might mean a little trouble. For Brown, who was on supervised release after an earlier crack distribution conviction, it meant jail time.

Upon determining that Brown had violated the terms of supervised release, the district court classified the violation as a Grade B violation -- rather than a less serious Grade C violation -- reasoning that Brown could have been prosecuted for a recidivist drug offense under federal law. The court sentenced Brown to 24 months in prison, the statutory maximum revocation sentence.

Was it harsh? Sure. Was it plainly unreasonable? No.

Was Counsel Ineffective for Letting Client Plead Guilty?

The fast-track program allows federal prosecutors to offer shorter sentences to defendants who plead guilty at an early stage in the prosecution and agree to waive appeal and other rights. If there’s substantial evidence that a client is guilty, the fast-track program is good option.

Except the client might turn around and accuse you of ineffective counsel.

Conversion Exclusion Doesn't Completely Bar Arson Recovery

A reasonable person might think, "If I intentionally set my trucks on fire, my insurance policy won't cover it. Because, yeah. Arson."

That reasonable person might be wrong.

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that State Farm was required to pay Wells Fargo for two torched trucks because the insurance policy's conversion exclusion did not unambiguously bar coverage.

Fourth Circuit Rules Changes Final, Effective October 1

Remember those proposed changes to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals local rules that we mentioned in August? They're official, final, and effective today.

It just got real, people.