Friday, April 12, 2024

Update in Louisiana Silencer Case: Plea Agreement with Right to Appeal


President Teddy Roosevelt's unregulated silencer.


On February 15, 2024 a plea agreement was reached in the silencer case in the Western District of Louisiana. In the case, Brennan James Comeaux had been charged with possession of five homemade silencers, two silver colored and three black colored. A warrant had been issued to search Comeax's home to find the silencers, based on probable cause.  A motion to dismiss had been filed in the case, contending the portions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and later statues violated the Second Amendment of the Constitution based on the guidance of the Bruen decision published by the Supreme Court on June 22, 2022.

The federal prosecution argued silencers were not "arms" but accessories, thus not covered under the Second Amendment, that requirements for serialization and registration were par to federal power as allowed by the commerce clause, and there is a history of regulationg "dangerous and unusual" weapons while contending silencers are "dangerously unusual". From the government brief in the previous article:

In short, under Heller, even assuming that silencers are “arms,” within the meaning of the Second Amendment, they remain unusually dangerous and thus fall permissibly within this nation’s historical tradition of regulation.

Astute readers will see Silencers cannot both not be "arms" and also be "dangerously unusual. It is not unusual to see lawyerly arguments covering all bases this way. Essentially, the prosecution is saying: Our first argument is correct, but if the court does not accept the first argument, then our backup argument is this. It is not quite contradictory. As in the Metcalf Gun Free School Zone case, the plea agreement preserves the right to appeal the judges denial of the motion to dismiss on the grounds the federal law is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. From the plea agreement:

3. The United States acknowledges that this is a conditional plea pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure ll(a)(2), and that Brennan Comeaux reserved his right to appeal the Court s adverse ruling as to his Motion to Dismiss and, should such appeal be successful, Brennan Comeaux shall be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.

In the plea agreement, Brennan Comeaux pleads guilty to the first count of the indictment.  Count one is for possession of unregistered firearm(s). In the definition of the NFA, silencers are defined as "firearms".





[26 U.S.C. § 5861(d)]


On or about June 2, 2022, in the Western District of Louisiana, the defendant,BRENNAN JAMES COMEAUX, knowingly received and possessed a firearm, to wit: two silver and three black firearm silencers, not registered to him in the National FirearmsRegistration and Transfer Record.All in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5841, 5861(d), and 5871. [26U.S.C. §§ 5841, 5861(d) and 5871].

As part of the plea agreement, Brennan Comeaux agreed to pay $100, forfeit the silencers, and receive a term of supervised release of not more than three years. The maximum penalty would be ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. You can see why nearly all federal defendants accept plea agreements. In this case, the fact of Comeaux's possession of the items was not contested.

No appeal has yet been applied for. There are other silencer cases in the courts which could bear on this case. One is in the Fifth Circuit, the same Circuit as this case. It is the lawsuit by AG Paxton for the State of Texas. The case is Paxton v. Richardson. The appeal of the Paxton case has been filed for the Fifth Circuit. This correspondent has not found and documents filed at the appeals court level.

If the Paxton case is successful, then Brennan Comeaux's appeal would be greatly enhanced.

There is a challenge to the ban on silencers by the state of Illinois which is ongoing. It is not a challenge to the federal law, but a challenge to the state ban. One of the contentions is whether silencers are included as arms under the Second Amendment. It the court find they are arms, it could be helpful to a Comeaux appeal.

Silencers are one of the weakest points in the National Firearms Act and its successor statutes. It remains to be seen if legislative or judicial attempts to remove them from the NFA will be the first to succeed.

©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

ScienceABC123 said...

Actually there is no such thing as a "silencer" as they don't actually render the sound from a firearm quiet (except in the movies or TV). All they do is reduce the sound level to a level less likely to cause damage to your hearing, but they are still loud enough to be heard, even several 100 feet away.