Should The Law Apply to The Police?

Discussion in 'Off-topic' started by Malum Prohibitum, Jul 3, 2006.

  1. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    There is a law (part of the FOPA) that bans the further manufacture of machine guns for civilian use. What it means is that if a machine gun was not manufactured and registered prior to 1986, it is unlawful to own. There are certain exceptions to this. One of them is acquisition by government entities by letterhead request.

    Should this law apply to police officers who privately acquire machine guns? Well, somebody in Illinois thinks it should and somebody in Illinois thinks it should not. The outcome will determine whether this police officer goes to jail:

    http://www.belleville.com/mld/bellevill ... 946296.htm
     
  2. Gunstar1

    Gunstar1 Administrator

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    Why would police need a weapon whose only use is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time? :sly:
     

  3. ber950

    ber950 Active Member

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    And if the Dept had bought the weapon and issued it to him there would be no problem. This concept of buying a class III weapon with personal money to be used on duty leaves question as to ownership.

    It is a bad law. Bad law breeds bad case law. What a mess.
     
  4. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    ber950, you are exactly right. The fact that he paid for the weapon with his own money is highly suspicious. It is a perversion of the intent of the law to say that a LEO can send an order on department letterhead in order to buy a machine gun personally.

    I like that the defense is saying the gun has been used mostly at the police training range. Duh! Where else is a LEO going to go play with his new toy but at his private range.
     
  5. ber950

    ber950 Active Member

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    Also what happens when he retires or dies? It is not a transferable weapon. It would have to be destroyed or given to the dept. or sold to another officer on letterhead.

    What about the legal liabilities?
     
  6. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/s ... enDocument

    Quote:
    Judge clears Illinois officer of gun charge
    By Tim O'Neil
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/30/2006

    Charges that an Illinois State Police sergeant illegally possessed a machine gun were dismissed Wednesday by a federal judge, who ruled that the law was "unconstitutionally vague" as applied to him.

    In federal court in East St. Louis, U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon dropped the charges against Sgt. James V. Vest of O'Fallon, Ill., who was lead rifle instructor for the department's District 11 in the Metro East area. Herndon's 26-page order says the confusion is over the federal law's exception for police officers, and whether Vest could reasonably be expected to know whether he was breaking the law.

    Vest was one of four people, including two other Illinois state troopers, separately accused in January of illegally possessing machine guns. Such fully automatic weapons are banned by federal law except for certain uses, such as by the military and police agencies, or by people with a special license, which the four did not have.

    A machine gun fires multiple rounds with one squeeze of the trigger.

    How Herndon's ruling would affect the other cases was unclear Wednesday, partly because the charges against them are not identical.

    Two other defendants, State Police Special Agent John Yard of Collinsville and Dr. Harold Griffiths of Spaulding, Ill., have similar constitutional claims pending before U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan in East St. Louis.

    The remaining defendant, Senior Master Trooper Greg Mugge of Jerseyville, pleaded guilty July 25 of possession of an unregistered machine gun. His lawyer, John Delaney Jr., said Wednesday that he was studying the Vest case ruling. "Who knows what will happen?" he said.

    Clyde Kuehn, one of Vest's lawyers, said Wednesday "was a very relieving and happy day" for his client. Vest remains on administrative leave.

    The four were charged after investigations by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was not clear at the outset what triggered the probe. None of the four was accused of using the weapons in any crimes.

    U.S. Attorney Randy Massey, whose office brought the charges, declined Wednesday to discuss Herndon's ruling. Massey's office had opposed Vest's motion to dismiss.

    "We are evaluating the order and are looking into our options," he said.

    The charges carry a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000, although federal guidelines call for less when defendants have no criminal records.

    Gun used in classes

    The case against Vest concerned an M-4 machine gun, essentially a short-barrel form of the standard M-16 military weapon, that he bought in 1998 and used in his state police training classes. The charges allege that he lacked authority from the state to buy or possess the weapon.

    Vest argued that he bought and used it under the "law enforcement exception" in the federal law. Some police agencies have machine guns in their arsenals, particularly for their tactical teams.

    Herndon noted that the prosecution never claimed that Vest ever used the M-4 for anything but official purposes. The judge said the government argued that a law enforcement agency, not a single police officer, has the authority to permit possession of a machine gun.

    But Herndon wrote that the federal law granting that authority was too vague in this instance to support the charges against Vest.

    "How would a police officer/lead rifle instructor such as Vest ever know whether his possession of a machine gun or other prohibited weapon was legal, as there is no guidance under the (statute) as to what constitutes proper authority," the judge wrote. "It does not appear that this statute was designed to criminalize police officers even if they may be guilty of mere technical violations."

    Given that Vest apparently used it only for law enforcement purposes, Herndon said, charging him "seems to go against the purpose" of the federal law.

    A spokesman for the Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield had no comment on the ruling and said he could not discuss personnel matters regarding Vest.

    In February, 10 Metro East police chiefs, two county sheriffs and two state senators publicly urged leniency for the accused officers.
     
  7. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    "It does not appear that this statute was designed to criminalize police officers even if they may be guilty of mere technical violations."

    If only a federal judge in the Seventh Circuit had the guts to write such an opinion applied to a non-government actor.
     
  8. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    Should the law ever be designed to criminalize any conduct that is a "mere technical violation?"

    MP, the link to the document does not seem to work.
     
  9. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Link works now.

    Most gun laws punish mere "technical" violations.

    Wrong wood furniture on your gun?

    One eighth of an inch too short in the barrel?

    I won't go on . . .
     
  10. johnpeace

    johnpeace New Member

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    No, of course it wasn't.

    It was designed to criminalize us for mere technical violations!

    I have been following several stories, Richard Celata of KT Ordinance especially, that have me fuming here lately.

    Is it time yet?
     
  11. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Rule of law. This is what I am talking about.
     
  12. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Here is the text of the actual opinion.

    http://www.ilsd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/0 ... g_MTDs.pdf


    You HAVE to read it. This case is not about the law - it is entirely about who had the gun. The judge's first two pages talk about who has the gun, not about whether this particular who violated the law.
     
  13. johnpeace

    johnpeace New Member

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    Malum Prohibitum,
    In your opinion, would there be anything to gain from sending letters voicing disapproval of their judgments to judges?

    I know they are largely arrogant and insulate themselves from the people by hiding behind their robes, benches and all those law books...but can you get through to them by just calling them on their bullshit?

    Would a campaign of letter writing and drawing attention to bad judgments and inappropriate opinions like this one be a good strategy?

    It seems like a reasonable first step before resorting to more drastic measures.
     
  14. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    No. Federal judges are appointed for life and may only be removed by impeachment. The last one to be impeached (bribery charges) was then elected to Congress and is next in line to take over chairmanship of the intelligence committee if the Democrats get a majority in the House.
     
  15. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    Wow. The opinion finds an affirmative defense to be unconstitutionally vague "as applied" to the defendant.

    But, wait. The government does not apply affirmative defenses to defendants. Defendants have to raise and prove the defense.

    It does not seem reasonable to me that a criminal case can be dismissed with prejudice, before trial, on the grounds that a potential affirmative defense is vague.
     
  16. Gunstar1

    Gunstar1 Administrator

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    If this is applied to everyone, the ATF would have to start doing actual work since many of their cases are nothing more than mere technical violations.
     
  17. johnpeace

    johnpeace New Member

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    Oh, that's just rich...stop now before I bust a gut!