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Thread: Civil Bench Warrant - Firerams?

  1. #1
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    Does a Civil Bench Warrant make one a fugitive from justice? Ie, no show at a hearing.

    Trying to figure this out for a paper I'm writing, can not find any information.

    Relevance is that a fugative from justice can't carry?

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    Pace wrote:
    Relevance is that a fugative from justice can't carry?
    I'm sure that the devilish answer is in the details of the law of the jurisdiction.

  3. #3
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    Will find out. Good Question.

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    One may not purchase a firearm if one is a fugitive. (I know because I just purchased another one today, and the form asked if I am a fugitive.)

    Furthermore, this link: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/nics/nicsfact.htm is an FBI page confirming what I just posted.

    I won't speak to possession by a fugitive, because I do not know. This is the kind of thing that might vary from state to state.

    [As an aside (not directed at the OP): If one knows something, he should back it up with a citation. If one does not know, he should say so.]

  5. #5
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    Instead of wildly speculating, let's look at the law.

    18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(2) prohibits any person "who is a fugitive from justice" from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(15) provides that "'fugitive from justice' means any person who has fled from any State to avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in any criminal proceeding."

    There are several unanswered questions and circuit splits on the elements of being a "fugitive from justice."

    There is a circuit split on the question of whether a person's flight from a particular jurisdiction must have been commited with the specific intent to avoid a prosecution. In the 4th and 7th Circuits:
    Any person who, knowing that charges are pending, purposely (1) leaves the jurisdiction of prosecution and (2) refuses to answer those charges by way of appearance before the prosecuting tribunal, is a fugitive from justice. It is not necessary that the accused make a furtive exit from the prosecuting jurisdiction.
    U.S. v. Spillane, 913 F.2d 1079, 1081-82 (4th Cir. 1990) (per curiam); U.S. v. Ballentine, 4 F.3d 504, 506 (7th Cir. 1993) (same). However, in the 9th Circuit:
    In order to establish that [the defendant] was a ‘fugitive from justice’ within the meaning of section 922(g)(2),an indispensable requisite of the prosecution's proof was that [the defendant] had left [the state where charges against him were pending] with the intent to avoid prosecution.
    U.S. v. Durcan, 539 F.2d 29, 31 (1976) (quoted and disapporved in Spillane, 913 F.2d at 1081).

    On another issue, the 9th Circuit has held that a person's return to the jurisdiction from which he or she fled does not extinguish his or her "fugitive from justice" status is he or she continues concealing himself from the authorities. U.S. v. Collins, 61 F.3d 1379, 1385-86 (9th Cir. 1995).

    Obviously we next get to the question of whether a civil bench warrant qualifies. On the surface, the answer is no, since it obviously arises from a civil and not a criminal case.

    The OP did not specify anything further but I will assume this was for a no-show for a traffic ticket or some other quasi-criminal proceeding involving only a fine and possible administrative penalties that most states have deemed "civil" proceedings to strip most of us of our rights (e.g., a jury trial, a burden of proof on the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, full pretrial discovery, the right to counsel, and the right to not be additionally penalized for asserting our right to a trial) so they can fleece us in the name of "safety" when all they're doing in most cases is grossly underposting speed limits in the face of decades of solid traffic engineering experience showing traffic speeds to be affected little by speed limit changes and the safest practice to be to post the speed limit according to the upper range of prevailing traffic speeds (i.e., the 85th percentile speed or higher), and more recently, with the aid of red light cameras, deliberately imposing "short yellows" to entrap motorists into unintentionally running red lights by giving them no chance to stop in time. [End traffic law lawlessness rant.]

    Both as a matter of simple textual analysis (since all reported cases pertaining to fugitives from justice deal with criminal charges that were brought as criminal cases) and to preserve the legal fiction of traffic tickets and many other matters involving state & local law violations where arrests can be made and/or citations issued by police officers as in other criminal matters, are merely "civil" cases, I would say no.

    However, out of an abundance of caution, I would not advise possessing a gun while active criminal charges are pending unless a person is complying with his or her obligation to attend the proceedings and comply with bail conditions, etc.
    James M. "Jim" Mullins, Jr., Esq.
    Admitted to practice in West Virginia and Florida.

    Founder, Past President, Treasurer, and General Counsel, West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
    Life Member, NRA

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    WVCDL wrote:
    Instead of wildly speculating, let's look at the law.
    A great idea. Thanks for the citation.

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    Well done, WVCDL.

    I don't think those two rulings are at odds with each other. If one knows charges are pending against him and leaves the jurisdiction or refuses to answer the charges by appearing, the appropriate conclusion is that he intends to avoid prosecution. Of course, he could present proof of lack of intent, such as going to his mother's funeral, which would then call on the prosecution to use other means to prove intent (such as statements made by the fugitive).

    The first ruling does not say that you have to prove intent, but it doesn't say that you do not. The second ruling does not address how one proves intent. It may well be as simple as an unrefuted demonstration that the person left the jurisdiction and, in doing so, avoided prosecution.

    Determining whether or not someone is a fugitive will draw from both rulings.

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