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U.S. v. DEJESUS

July 19, 2001

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JERRY DEJESUS DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle, U.S. District Judge

OPINION UPON MOTION TO DISMISS INDICTMENT

This Court is called upon to address the issue whether the federal statute which criminalizes possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), is facially unconstitutional as lying beyond the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, in light of the recent jurisprudence of the Supreme Court restricting the reach of the Commerce Clause. The felon-in-possession statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) states:

[i]t shall be unlawful for any person — (1) who has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year . . . to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Defendant Jerry DeJesus is charged with knowingly possessing a firearm, after having been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 2. The defendant has moved to dismiss the indictment under the premise that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) is facially unconstitutional because the conduct being regulated by Congress in the statute does not have a substantial affect upon interstate commerce and thus does not constitute a valid exercise of Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. The United States counters by arguing that this Court is bound by the Third Circuit decision in United States v. Gateward, 84 F.3d 670 (3d Cir. 1996), which upheld the constitutionality of § 922(g)(1). For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment in this matter is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 1, 1999, Camden police, investigating a report of a stolen car in the area of Mt. Ephraim Avenue and Liberty Street in Camden, New Jersey, apprehended defendant Jerry DeJesus as he allegedly attempted to flee the scene of an accident involving a stolen car. A search conducted incident to defendant's arrest allegedly revealed defendant was in possession of an Arcadia Machine & Tool, .380 caliber, semi-automatic handgun.

On December 8, 1999, a Grand Jury, sitting in Camden, New Jersey, returned a one-count Indictment charging the defendant with being a felon-in-possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On January 25, 2001, defendant was arraigned before the Honorable Robert B. Kugler, United States Magistrate Judge. Defendant is now before this Court seeking to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the felon-in-possession of a firearm statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. I, § 8, and is therefore unconstitutional.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Background

Under the Commerce Clause, Congress is empowered "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3. This power has been construed broadly to allow Congressional regulation of many aspects of modern life.*fn1

The legal landscape in this area changed, however, on April 26, 1995, with the ruling in United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995). At issue in Lopez was the constitutionality of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(1)(A), which made it a federal offense "for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone." 18 U.S.C. § 922 (q)(1)(A).

In analyzing 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(q)(1)(A), the Supreme Court noted that Congressional power under the Commerce Clause may ...


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