Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Possession of a Weapon by a Felon, Mississippi Code 97-37-5

Ran across this statute last week and thought it might make for an interesting blog post. Below is the text of the statute. My commentary is the green text that is mixed in. If you have any comments please feel free to add them in.

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or of the United States to possess any firearm or any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, or any muffler or silencer for any firearm unless such person has received a pardon for such felony, has received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.

(1c) This is an interesting list of "weapons": bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack or silencer. My issue with this list is who gets to decide what a certain type of knife is? Switchblade is fairly clear but a Bowie knife is more confusing, is their a length something has to be to be a Bowie or a Butcher knife is even more open to interpretation, are we talking a clever or a boning knife or any knife that can be found in the grocery store meat department? I don't see any definitions for these "weapons" so I guess discretion falls to the courts, but with that comes the problem of wrongful arrest if a cop thinks its a knife under this section but the judge doesn't. I wish this section was more clear.

(2) Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or committed to the custody of the State Department of Corrections for not more than three (3) years, or both.

(2c) This section had a proposed amendment to make this a 10 year maximum penalty, up from 3 by HB 1552 (2007), but it did not get out of committee. I don't have a big problem with this amendment but I always worry about how many sentences get increased in election years for those about to try and reelected want to look "tough on crime".

(3) A person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state may apply to the court in which he was convicted for a certificate of rehabilitation. The court may grant such certificate in its discretion upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the applicant has been rehabilitated and has led a useful, productive and law-abiding life since the completion of his sentence and upon the finding of the court that he will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.

(3c) I like this provision, kind of a reward for being "rehabilitated". However, it does provide for discretion which can be good or bad with elected judges and could, in a broken system, allow for the purchasing of these certificates of rehabilitation with a lawyer who is buddies with a judge or a campaign contribution to the judge that slides past most voters.

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