A felony conviction in Florida often has wide ranging consequences, from jail time and fines to revocation of voting rights. It also means that the person convicted can no longer carry a gun. In U.S. v. Weeks, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit explains that possession of a firearm by a convicted felon can mean a long stretch behind bars, depending on the extent of person's previous convictions.
Mr. Weeks was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he plead guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. Despite the plea, Weeks argued that he should not have been sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that enhances prison times for convicted felons who commit crimes with guns.
Specifically, the ACCA provides that a previously convicted felon later convicted for possession of a firearm must be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison if the person has at least three prior convictions for either violent felonies or serious drug offenses. These felonies and offenses must have been committed on different occasions in order to qualify under the Act.
A pre-sentence investigation report indicated that Weeks had been previously convicted on four separate violent felony counts - three for burglary of a structure and one for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon - committed on separate occasions. Weeks, however, argued that prosecutors failed to show that these crimes were committed separately. Two of the burglaries, according to Weeks, occurred on the same day at two businesses (Shirley's Restaurant and the Florida Times Union building) 56 feet apart from each other. Weeks further claimed that the battery charge did not qualify under the ACCA.
A district court denied Weeks' request to withdraw his guilty plea when it became clear he would be sentenced under the ACCA. Noting that the crime of burglary requires the person charged to enter into a structure unlawfully, the district court said that Weeks committed two separate crimes when he entered and later left the restaurant and then entered the Times Union building next door.