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full auto, ethics, and intent vs. the law

Discussion in 'Legal' started by SpentCasing, Jan 25, 2011.

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  1. SpentCasing

    SpentCasing Member

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    I frequent a few gun boards on my daily rounds and it seems every few weeks some new guy pops in asking about full auto conversions. Of course he is quickly shot down with a torrent of blah blah 10 years, 10k fine, jack-boot raids, and anti-gun fuel etc. Now no way to guarantee of course, but what if he really didnt have intent, purely academic purposes. 1st amendment would apply AFAIK. Not illegal to discuss things as long there is zero intent. Just as we discuss SBR, SBS, and home made suppressors without going straight to "you WILL go to jail, come back when your papers are in order and we'll discuss".

    Okay so my question is this. If you were on a jury and a man was on trial for a full auto military type rifle/carbine/subgun possession and the defense proved to you reasonable doubt towards intent, would you let him walk? I think I might. To what extent does protection of "shall not be infringed" mean to you?
     
  2. mbogo

    mbogo Member

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    Ignoring your first paragraph completely and assuming defense counsel created reasonable doubt in my mind, I would have to vote to acquit.

    On the other hand, if the prosecution showed evidence that the defendant requested or searched for instructions on full-auto conversions on one or more web sites, defense counsel's job would be more difficult.

    mbogo
     
  3. Justin

    Justin Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm fairly certain that actually building an unregistered fully automatic weapon clearly shows intent to violate the National Firearms Act.
     
  4. Robert

    Robert Moderator Staff Member

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    Never mind. I was wrong.
     
  5. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

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    Regarding your first paragraph: You are allowed to discuss whatever you want as per the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment does not protect you against being prosecuted for taking some ACTION that is against the law. For example, building an unregistered machine gun.

    The prosecution doesn't have to argue intent. You don't build a gun by accident. The intent was there. All they have to do is prove that he broke the law. The judge's instructions to the jury will be to decide if the prosecution has proved that he broke the law -- not whether he SHOULD have broken the law or if it's o.k. just this once, or whatever.

    While there is some discussion of juries refusing to convict someone of a crime he clearly committed as a protest against the justice of a law, that simply WILL NOT happen in an NFA case.
     
  6. SpentCasing

    SpentCasing Member

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    Hmm, I sometimes have a hard time conveying my point in text and I think this may not be being read how i intended. Paragraph 1 was not meant in any way referring to THR censoring posts or unnecissarily closing them down. It was not meant as a slight against THR mods or community in any way. My apologies if taken that way.If a guy with 2 posts asks how to convert AKs all the usual responses are fair and right. Illegally converting firearms is illegal and stupid and not worth it. What I mean is along the lines of what Sam said

    If the guy had ILLEGALLY converted a firearm but had no proof of ill intent of harm, would you "the reader" ethically send him to jail for possession as prescribed by law, or would you "protest" the law under "shall not be infringed". Hope I got it right this time.
     
  7. NOLAEMT

    NOLAEMT Member

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    two words: " jury nullification"

    the '34 NFA is unconstitutional, sending someone to jail for violation of same is ridiculous. If he built it to shoot up a daycare or something than prosecute him for that, but sending someone to jail just for owning something and not hurting anyone with it is not acceptable.

    and while the Judge can instruct the jury not to take that into consideration, they are under no obligation to do so.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  8. Tim the student

    Tim the student Member

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    Reasonable doubt = acquit - in theory at least.

    But, in your example, I think I'm with Justin. That being said, I do think it is a stupid law.
     
  9. ny32182

    ny32182 Member

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    It is a stupid law, but the law doesn't say it is illegal to intend to kill someone with an unregistered MG; it says it is illegal to possess an unregistered MG.

    Deciding to convict someone on that crime alone, and no others? I hope it is a decision I never have to make.
     
  10. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    If the guy had ILLEGALLY converted a firearm but had no proof of ill intent of harm

    Whatever intent he had to do with the gun is not material to the fact he illegally coverted the gun to full auto. Using your logic you would not convict a gang member for illegally converting a gun to full auto.
     
  11. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    I personally wouldn't. I could not in good conscience send someone to prison for a victimless crime.

    I'd be more than happy to convict said gang member of any actual crimes that injured others.
     
  12. brickeyee

    brickeyee Member

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    Good luck making an intent case against a possession law.

    You are very likely to fail every time.

    There is not intent in a possession law, you either posses the restricted item or you do not.
     
  13. GambJoe

    GambJoe Member

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    I think the judges instructions have to be obeyed.
     
  14. empty's

    empty's Member

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    Yes it's illegal to have a MG unregistered...but would'nt you say that law is crazy!
    those of us here that like guns and enjoy them and using them and don't have any intent in hurting anybody, why are we punished ?
    The bad guys that go out and create problem don't care if their guns are registered and it's not going to stop them being legal or not! you can take everything and ban it but you really change nothing the bad guys can still get the stuff and always will be able too. (enough on the law part.)
    So for the guy that is in court charged with the NFA case if he's and upstanding person... no he shouldn't go to prison he's not hurting anybody!
    Who knows he may live next to you and see the six guys robbing you and your family and ramsacking your home and come over and help take care of business!!
     
  15. pitsmile

    pitsmile Member

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    I wouldn't want to be in the situation - with that said the circumstances would certainly weigh in, bias is unavoidable no matter what anyone says. If a citizen with no priors and proves to be an outstanding citizen is put on trial, it is hard to not have sympathy; however, the law is the law.

    It would be near impossible prove their was no intent - in fact you couldn't prove their was no intent (unless it was a science experiment but that would certainly be legally performed if it were official). Converting a weapon to full auto shows some sort of intent, otherwise it would not have been done (from the law's point of view) I personally think it would be cool just to say I've done it, which I think is the OP point.

    In NJ, if I were to have an ounce of marijuana on me, I would most likely be charged with intent to distribute - in Alaska (as long as I didn't purchase it :rolleyes:, it is legal). There is no intent that I meant to sell it over personal use, but the legal system has flaws.
     
  16. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    As a juror, you always have the power to acquit, regardless of the judge's instructions.
     
  17. DKSuddeth

    DKSuddeth Member

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    the juror is the ultimate arbitor of the law, not the judge. If you don't agree with the law, you can vote not guilty.
     
  18. Kentuckiana rifleman

    Kentuckiana rifleman Member

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    I would have to look long and think deep about what kind of life this man has led. If he's committed crimes in the past if he had any anger or bias issues. I like to believe that if I were in that position, I would like to believe that I'd be on a jury panel and it's a guy (or gal) that has been in the same scenarios as myself. And I would urge my fellow peers to acquit this person should they "fit the bill" of a good citizen.
    One more thing I'd like to point out. If any of us here whether for or against the argument can agree on is that; If this person was a law abeiding citizen and was in court wouldn't the expirence alone scare them straight? And I ask everyone to think that if someone you knew personally was in this situation, how would you feel if they went to jail know that if the law abeiding citizen went to prison for what they did while criminals all over the world are manufacturing weapons for what they want to commit?
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  19. rajb123

    rajb123 member

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    The Simpson case proved jury nulification does ocurr..... if no violent crime was committed with this gun, I suppose it might be a diffucult case for procesutors to win...

    ...if I was a prosecutor, I would not pursue this one.
     
  20. LemmyCaution

    LemmyCaution Member

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    The jury should not be the party to decide who gets away with breaking the law and who doesn't. The jury merely decides whether the law has been broken.

    Regardless of how one feels about the NFA, if empaneled in a jury, one is morally obligated to decide whether the law has been broken, or not. It is not your place to make a decision to acquit or convict based on considerations of what you think of the law or what you think of the character of the defendant. You are merely there to decide whether the law has been broken. If you can't do that, you don't belong on a jury.

    To act otherwise is to legitimize the conviction of blacks and the acquittal of whites of the same crime, with the same evidence, merely on the basis of race. There is no moral distinction.

    You either believe in our system of jurisprudence and uphold it, or you don't. If you don't, you have no business complaining when it is inevitably used against you, once you've helped destroy its credibility.

    The NFA is unambiguous about what constitutes a legal FA weapon. It doesn't matter at all what extenuating circumstances there are. There are no exceptions written in the law.

    To acquit because of intent or your judgement of the defendant's character is not deciding that the hypothetical defendant didn't violate the law. It's deciding that whether or not he broke the law doesn't matter. As such, the law doesn't matter. And as such, the system of laws doesn't matter. And without the system of laws, we are not a great nation, but merely a pack of tribal savages.

    PS- I'm well aware that this sort of jury activity goes on every day, particularly in the case of wealthy and powerful defendants. I'm not naïve. I'm merely attempting to argue for the ideal in an appeal to the membership of this board.
     
  21. henschman

    henschman Member

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    The Supreme Court has held that the NFA requires a KNOWING violation.

    The 1993 case Staples v. US involves a defendant who was arrested and convicted for possession of a fully automatic AR-15 by the ATF. The Defendant claimed he bought the rifle at a gun show, not knowing that it had parts installed that would make it capable of fully automatic fire, and that it looked just like any semi-automatic AR-15. He requested jury instructions requiring the jury to find a knowing violation in order to convict. The judge denied these instructions, and the jury convicted him.

    The Supreme Court overturned this conviction in an opinion by Justice Thomas, and interpreted the NFA to require a KNOWING state of mind.


    So in your hypothetical, the jurors should be outright instructed not to convict if they have a reasonable doubt whether the violation was intentional.

    Of course, if it were me on the jury, I would vote to acquit regardless. I am NOT the kind of juror that a prosecutor would want. Even if the prosecution overwhelmingly met its burden, I would vote to acquit if I believed that the law the defendant was charged with violating was an illegitimate law... which I believe just about every law to be in our modern Administrative State.

    I probably will never make it on a jury, though, since I am a lawyer... lawyers are always kicked off with peremptory challenges, because they know about jury nullification. Judges generally don't give instructions on jury nullification anymore, and it is definitely something that prosecutors would rather to remain a secret.
     
  22. DKSuddeth

    DKSuddeth Member

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    sorry sir, you are completely incorrect. Jury nullification has been around since the beginning of our country and beyond.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification_in_the_United_States

    It is not only our right, but our duty to ensure that the law is not used to persecute individuals unfairly or unjustly.
     
  23. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    As DKSuddeth pointed out, Jury Nullification is nothing new, and indeed predates this nation. A juror has a duty to follow his or her conscience in rendering a verdict; this power is yet another check to balance the power of government. If the government made up of elected representatives passes a law which is reviled by all its constituents, it is the peoples' right to invalid the law by refusing to convict anyone charged with its violation.

    Keep in mind that one person's sense of morality will indeed vary from the next, so there is some inherent volatility in the application of law if all jurors are actually informed of their rights and duties.
     
  24. brickeyee

    brickeyee Member

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    If you converted a weapon you obviously knew, and if you har ever fired it in auto you knew.

    That is a pretty slim ruling to try and expand.
     
  25. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    I would have to look long and think deep about what kind of life this man has led. If he's committed crimes in the past if he had any anger or bias issues.

    As a juror you would not be allowed to have any knwledge of this. none of this is admissible in a trial and only becomes a consideration for the judge to use in sentencing.

    The jury should not be the party to decide who gets away with breaking the law and who doesn't. The jury merely decides whether the law has been broken.


    This is what juries do. Jury nullification does happen but not as often as many think.

    The Simpson case proved jury nulification does ocurr..... if no violent crime was committed with this gun, I suppose it might be a diffucult case for procesutors to win...

    ...if I was a prosecutor, I would not pursue this o


    If you are talking about OJ that wasn't a case of jury nullification, that was a case of sloppy police procedure and lack of preparation by the prosecutor.

    It would not be a difficult case for a prosecutor, the defendant either did it or not. If not he probably wouldn't be in the courtroom.
     
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