Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Wisconsin Court Prioritizes Avoiding Deportation Over the Second Amendment in Hierarchy of Rights

Friday, February 9, 2018

Wisconsin Court Prioritizes Avoiding Deportation Over the Second Amendment in Hierarchy of Rights

An appellate court judge in Wisconsin has ruled that lifetime loss of Second Amendment rights is not on par with the threat of deportation when it comes to a lawyer’s duty to advise clients of the secondary effects of a guilty plea. The case is State of Wisconsin v. Amanda L. Longley.  

After a confrontation with her child’s father and the man’s girlfriend, 29-year-old Amanda Longley of Wisconsin pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, one involving disorderly conduct and the other battery. She was sentenced to one year of probation. 

Later, however, Longley discovered that her plea carried a much more enduring and serious consequence and one which her lawyer had neglected to warn her: a permanent loss of Second Amendment rights.  This is because her conviction triggered a federal law that bans firearm possession by those convicted of a so-called “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” 

After learning of her prohibited status, Longley asked the court for permission to withdraw her guilty plea, noting she would have not have pled guilty had she known she would thereafter be disqualified from firearm possession. She acknowledged that the Wisconsin Supreme Court had denied a similar request in a 1999 case but argued developments since then allowed the appellate court to reconsider that decision. 

Specifically, Longely cited a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case, Padilla v. Kentucky. There, the court allowed a Honduran citizen to challenge his conviction for “the transportation of a large amount of marijuana in his tractor-trailer” because his lawyer failed to warn him that pleading guilty to drug distribution could result in deportation. This, according to the Supreme Court, deprived Padilla of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. In the view of Judge Paul Lundsten, who wrote the opinion in the Longley case, an American citizen’s Second Amendment rights cannot be compared to a foreign national’s interest in avoiding deportation when it comes to consequences a constitutionally effective lawyer must mention in relation to a plea. 

In doing so, the Supreme Court departed from case law in the lower courts that held lawyers do not have to advise clients of “collateral consequences” of convictions that are not considered punishment for the conviction itself (i.e., part of the sentence imposed by the court of conviction). “[C]hanges in our immigration law have made removal nearly an automatic result for a broad class of noncitizen offenders,” the court wrote. “Thus, we find it ‘most difficult’ to divorce the penalty from the conviction in the deportation context.”

If anything, the effect of the federal law that applies to Longley’s case is even more iron-clad. If a state misdemeanor conviction meets certain requirements specified in federal law, the person is automatically banned for life from firearm possession. It doesn’t matter what sentence is actually imposed by the court of conviction or that court’s view of the severity of the offense. The person has no right to directly appeal the federal firearms ban, moreover, and few – if any – ways of regaining his or her lost rights. 

Although the Wisconsin court’s opinion does not specifically mention it, another important development bearing on the case is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 21st Century decisions on the Second Amendment, which affirm that it is a fundamental, individual right. Normally, this would mean that it could not be easily dismissed by the lower courts. 

Of course, there’s nothing normal about the disdain with which many courts treat the right to keep and bear arms, especially as compared to other constitutional rights – many of which are found nowhere in the text of the Constitution itself – that some judges hold particularly dear.  

In the view of Judge Paul Lundsten, who wrote the opinion in the Longley case, an American citizen’s Second Amendment rights cannot be compared to a foreign national’s interest in avoiding deportation when it comes to consequences a constitutionally effective lawyer must mention in relation to a plea. Citing the “unique” nature of deportation, Judge Lundsten dismissed the idea that the same rationale applied to loss of Second Amendment rights. Courts are not “now generally free, let alone required, to apply [the Padilla case’s] factors to expand counsel’s duties as to all manner of collateral consequences,” he wrote.

Other than the right to keep and bear arms, we don’t know of any other fundamental civil liberty that can be permanently forfeited for a mere misdemeanor conviction. The predicament that Longley faces is “unique” in its own right; recognizing a lawyer’s duty to warn of it would not open the floodgates to imposing unrealistic expectations on defense attorneys’ professional responsibilities. 

That the courts don’t see it that way, however, says more about their own priorities than the importance of the interests at stake.

TRENDING NOW
NRA Wins Lawsuit in Washington State, Prevents I-1639 From Appearing on Ballot

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

NRA Wins Lawsuit in Washington State, Prevents I-1639 From Appearing on Ballot

The Thurston County Superior Court today ruled in favor of the National Rifle Association and ordered a writ of mandamus to prevent I-1639 from appearing on the ballot. The judge agreed the signature sheets did ...

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

News  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

Hundreds of firearms retailers may have to close soon because a powerful Canadian tech company, Shopify, recently decided it was anti-gun and issued an ultimatum: Do business our way or not at all.

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

In a July 23rd op-ed, Joe McDermott, the Council Chair of King County, Washington, introduced a multi-prong “King County Gun Safety Action Plan” aimed at reducing gun violence.

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

Imagine if California, to combat what the legislature considered the serious problem of manmade global warming, required all new vehicles sold by car dealers in the state to run on grass clippings, rather than fossil ...

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

Crowd funding is a relatively recent innovation that allows a person or cause to leverage the vast reach of the Internet to raise money for virtually every imaginable purpose. Even small donations of a few ...

No NRA Members Need Apply

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

No NRA Members Need Apply

Like most people, we understand that educational institutions and staff tend to lean left. The degree and intensity of the bend varies across universities, but a leftward orientation is actually expected today. We’re aware that ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Fake Blues: The Media’s Worst Enemy Isn’t the President, It’s Themselves

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Fake Blues: The Media’s Worst Enemy Isn’t the President, It’s Themselves

On Thursday, over 300 media outlets joined in a coordinated effort to push back against President Donald Trump. That will hardly come as a shock to many Americans, as it seems mainstream news organizations have done little ...

Canada: Montreal to Endorse Nationwide Handgun Ban, Police Content with Current Laws

News  

Gun Laws  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Canada: Montreal to Endorse Nationwide Handgun Ban, Police Content with Current Laws

Politicians from the largest city in the Canadian gun control stronghold of Quebec plan to put their weight behind a raft of severe gun restrictions next week. According to a report from Radio Canada International, the Montreal City ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.