US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
USA v. Tucker
Opinion Date: May 9, 2022
Judge: Don R. Willett
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Defendant was involuntarily committed to the emergency room for protective custody after law enforcement found he was a danger to himself or others. He remained committed for 15 days. Two weeks later, Defendant was again committed, this time for 13 days. Several years later, in 2019, Defendant bought a firearm. In doing so, he answer negatively to the question asking if he'd ever been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution. Subsequently, Defendant attempted to buy firearms two other times. An ATF warned Defendant he was ineligible to purchase a firearm, which did not deter Defendant.
Defendant was arrested and charged with three counts of making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer and two counts of possession of a firearm and ammunition. The indictment alleged only that Defendant had been adjudicated as a “mental defective”; it did not mention commitment. However, the district court instructed the jury it could find him guilty if he was adjudicated as a mental defective or if he had been committed.
The Fifth Circuit found that the district court committed plain error when it instructed the jury that it could convict the defendant if it could he had been committed. The instructions allowed the jury to convict based on uncharged conduct. Thus, the Fifth Circuit reversed Defendant's convictions.
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