Guilty Gun Defendant Can Challenge Law: High Court

Splitting 6-3, the Supreme Court said a man who pleaded guilty to possessing firearms on the U.S. Capitol grounds could still file an appeal contending that the law was in conflict with the Second Amendment.

In another gun rights case at the Supreme Court, the justices ruled on Wednesday that a guilty plea in a criminal case does not prevent a defendant from later appealing his conviction on the ground that the statute under which he was convicted violates the Constitution. The case was filed by Rodney Class, who admitted that in 2013 that he had firearms in his locked jeep parked on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  After his plea, Class filed an appeal, arguing that the statute he was accused of violating was in conflict with the Second Amendment.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a 6-to-3 majority that “the claims at issue here do not fall within any of the categories of claims that Class’ plea agreement forbids him to raise on direct appeal.” In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito said that Class should not be able to challenge the law after pleading guilty. “There is no justification for the muddle left by today’s decision,” Alito said, adding later, “I fear that today’s decision will bedevil the lower courts.” The case will now continue in the lower courts.