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Can't Sit on a Jury? Then Civil Rights Not Fully Restored

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 26, 2013 3:55 PM

Defendant Jason Jones, a/k/a Peek-A-Boo, plead guilty (without a plea agreement), to violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), “being a felon in possession of a firearm.” He had four prior burglary convictions, three of which he committed when he was only seventeen years old.

The district court sentenced Jones to 180 months imprisonment, based on the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA’), which requires an enhanced sentence. Jones objected to the consideration of his prior convictions because his civil rights had been restored. He also raised seven other arguments, which the Tenth Circuit promptly resolved because they were either meritless, or “squarely foreclosed by controlling case law.”

The ACAA requires that anyone with three prior convictions for a violent felony "shall be...imprisoned not less than fifteen years." Jones argued that the three prior burglary convictions should not be considered in applying 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(2) which states in part: "Any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter."

In 2005, Jones was discharged from his sentence, and under Missouri law, his rights to vote and hold office were automatically restored. His right to sit on a jury, however, was not restored. Jones argued that the restoration of his right to vote and hold office were sufficient to meet the requirement of having his civil rights restored under applying 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(2). The Tenth Circuit did not agree.

Relying on set circuit precedent, the court reiterated:

[W]e have held that the rights to vote, serve on a jury, and hold public office, as well as the right to possess firearms, must all be restored under § 921(a)(20) before a prior conviction may be excluded on the basis of restoration of civil rights.

In the Tenth Circuit it's clear, for a defendant to succeed on a claim based on § 921(a)(20), all of their civil rights must be restored. Of course, this will depend on each state's criminal law, so the results will vary state to state.

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