United States Supreme Court holds that a guilty plea, by itself, does not bar an appeal based on the constitutionality of the statute.

The Defendant in this case drove on to United States Capitol Building grounds with a firearm in the trunk of his car. The firearm was discovered and he was prosecuted under federal law which specifically forbids firearms in the Capitol Building or its grounds.

The defendant filed and argued a motion to dismiss the indictment which argued that the statute violated his rights under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. After this motion was heard and denied, the defendant entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to 24 months in prison. The plea agreement indicated that the defendant gave up a number of rights, but the right to appeal based on the constitutionality of the statute was not specifically mentioned in the plea agreement. He then appealed.

The DC Court of Appeals held that the guilty plea itself inherently meant that the defendant gave up his right to appeal. Justice Breyer, speaking for a 6-3 majority of the Court, disagreed and reversed. The holding was based upon a number of similar precedents in the Court’s history, and disagreed with the Government and the dissent that Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure should be given a broad reading to essentially bar all appeals that are not permitted in a plea agreement.

The case is Class v. United States, 16-424.


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