744 F.2d 539 (6th Cir. 1984), 84-5086, United States v. Knowles

Docket Nº:84-5086.
Citation:744 F.2d 539
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jay Thomas KNOWLES, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:September 28, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 539

744 F.2d 539 (6th Cir. 1984)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Jay Thomas KNOWLES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 84-5086.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 28, 1984

Argued Aug. 22, 1984.

Robert L. Tucker (argued), Asst. Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tenn., for defendant-appellant.

Joe B. Brown, U.S. Atty., John Williams (argued), Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before MERRITT, KENNEDY and WELLFORD, Circuit Judges.

MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

Any person who has been convicted of a "felony" is prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. 18 U.S.C. app.

Page 540

Sec. 1202(a)(1) (1982). Defendant Jay Thomas Knowles is charged with two counts of violating this statute. He was convicted in Tennessee of petit larceny and receiving stolen property valued under two hundred dollars. Although the Tennessee statutes permit a maximum sentence of five years in the penitentiary for each offense, the defendant actually received for each offense a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in the county jail. The question presented by this appeal is whether these state convictions--carrying a sentence of less than one year--qualify as felonies so that defendant is prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm. We conclude that Tennessee law classifies such crimes as felonies.

I.

On January 12, 1981 the defendant was convicted of petit larceny. On July 27, 1981 the defendant was convicted of receiving stolen goods under the value of two hundred dollars. The Tennessee criminal code provides that the punishment for petit larceny is imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than one year nor more than five years. TENN.CODE ANN. Sec. 39-3-1104. The penalty for receiving stolen goods valued under two hundred dollars is the same. TENN.CODE ANN. Sec. 39-3-1113.

The difficulty in this case arises from TENN.CODE ANN. Sec. 39-3-1105, which provides that

In all cases of petit larceny, and in all prosecutions for receiving stolen goods under the value of two hundred dollars ($200), the court may, in the event of conviction, on the recommendation of the jury, substitute, in lieu of punishment in the penitentiary, imprisonment in the county jail or workhouse ....

The defendant received the benefit of this statute for both of his convictions: each conviction resulted in a sentence of imprisonment in the county jail for eleven months and twenty-nine days.

As noted above, federal law prohibits anyone previously convicted of a felony from possessing...

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