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Supreme Court issues ruling clarifying criminal law procedure

Supreme Court building
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 13:22:32-04

The Supreme Court handed down a near-unanimous ruling Monday that addressed federal procedures in criminal law.

In the case Greer v. the United States, the defendant, Gregory Greer, argued that he could not be convicted of being illegally in possession of a firearm as a convicted felon because the prosecution did not prove in court that Greer knew about his felony status.

However, the high court ruled Monday that because Greer did not raise a claim of error until he appealed his conviction, his conviction should stand.

Greer's legal team argued he had a right to challenge his conviction under a 2019 case, Rehaif v. United States. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that to convict a person under felony possession, the government must prove that the defendant knew of their felony status and the restrictions about owning a firearm.

However, in Monday's ruling, the Supreme Court said Greer forfeited his right to claim an error because it wasn't raised only on appeal.

"Gary must show that, if the District Court had correctly advised him of the mens rea element of the offense, there is a 'reasonable probability that he would not have pled guilty. Greer and (fellow defendant in a separate case Michael) Gary have not carried that burden," the court ruled.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the opinion of the court, which was agreed to by seven other justices. Justice Sonya Sotomayor also wrote an opinion in which she partly concurred and partly dissented.

The court issued one other ruling on Monday, a clarification to minimum mandatory sentencing for drug offenses. The court is expected to release decisions on several high-profile cases on topics like the Affordable Care Act, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and gun control by the end of the month.