Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Federal Charges for a man who used drugs and possessed guns

The Portland Press Herald recently ran this story:

Biddeford man arrested with guns now faces federal charges

Timothy Courtois had the misfortune to get pulled over with a bunch of guns. He then compounded his problems by making statements about his affinity for using marijuana and other drugs. He was orignially charged with some state crimes but things are now much worse since the Federal Unitited States Attorney's office has decided to prosecute.

Bad news for Mr. Courtois but great timing for me since I just published a post discussing the myriad ways that one can become Federally prohibited from possessing firearms. In that post I discussed 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), the federal law that details the categories of prohibited persons. Paragraph (3) prohibits firearm possession for "a person who is an unlawful user of or who is addicted to a controlled substance." This is one of the laws that the defendant is alleged to have violated in the Federal Criminal Complaint.

Defenses to Federal Firearms Charges?

There may be some interesting opportunities for defense here. As noted in the earlier post, the unlawful user category is not as clearly defined as some of the others. The applicable regulations define the term as follows in part:
"Unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance. A person who uses a controlled substance and has lost the power of self-control with reference to the use of controlled substance; and any person who is a current user of a controlled substance in a manner other than as prescribed by a licensed physician...."
Does Courtois fall into this category? At this point it is unclear. It might well come down to a trial where the jury with decide.