Furda v. State , 100

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation26 A.3d 918,421 Md. 332
Docket Number2010.,Sept. Term,No. 100,100
PartiesMark E. FURDAv.STATE of Maryland.
Decision Date17 August 2011

421 Md. 332
26 A.3d 918

STATE of Maryland.

No. 100

Sept. Term


Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Aug. 17, 2011.

[26 A.3d 920]

Walter S. Booth, Bethesda, MD, for Petitioner.Brenda Gruss, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen. of Maryland, Baltimore, MD), on brief, for Respondent.John Parker Sweeney, T. Sky Woodward, Kevin B. Mattingly, Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, PLLC, Baltimore, MD, for amicus curiae brief of National Rifle Association.Argued before BELL, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, MURPHY, ADKINS, BARBERA, JJ.ADKINS, J.

[421 Md. 336] In this case we must determine whether a defendant's convictions for perjury and false information in a firearm application can be founded upon his failure to disclose a court order that is later reversed. After responding to a domestic altercation between Petitioner Mark E. Furda and his wife, Montgomery County police seized Furda's extensive collection of weapons and transported him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. Furda was later transferred to a behavioral health facility. Upon release, Furda requested the return of his firearms, which a judge denied on the grounds that Furda had been committed to a mental institution and was, therefore, prohibited from possessing a firearm. Although Furda asked the judge to reconsider, he did not wait for the judge's response before traveling to a gun store to acquire a new gun. When filling out the application to purchase a firearm, Furda

[26 A.3d 921]

certified, under penalty of perjury, that he had [421 Md. 337] not been committed to a mental institution. His application was denied, and the State subsequently charged him with perjury and false information in a firearm application. A trial court later convicted him of these two offenses.

In two separate cases, Furda appealed both the judge's denial of his motion for the return of his firearms and his two convictions. In one case the Court of Special Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of Furda's motion for the return of his weapons, but in another, it affirmed Furda's convictions. In the latter case, the Court held that the judge's erroneous order could still serve as a predicate for perjury and false information in a firearm application because the order was in effect at the time Furda completed the application under oath.

Displeased with this decision, Furda petitioned this Court, presenting the following issues for our review: 1

[421 Md. 338] 1) In the State's required application to purchase a firearm, is a question asking whether the applicant had ever been adjudicated mentally defective or had been committed to a mental institution sufficiently unambiguous to serve as the predicate for a conviction of perjury and false information?

2) Is a statement on a State firearm application that the applicant had not been committed to a mental institution, made while the applicant was under a court order deeming him to have been “committed,” sufficient evidence to support a conviction for perjury and false statement when the court order was later overturned on appeal?

For the reasons articulated below, we hold that the relevant question was not impermissibly ambiguous and that Furda knowingly and willfully answered that question falsely. Accordingly, we affirm Furda's convictions for perjury and false information.2

The events of this case were triggered by a domestic dispute between Furda and

[26 A.3d 922]

his wife, Karen. On February 27, 2003, Karen initiated a petition for an emergency mental evaluation of her husband, alleging that he had made threatening gestures with a gun against himself and against her. A SWAT team from the Office of the Sheriff for Montgomery County served Furda with the petition that night, and later seized many of his weapons, including fifteen rifles, one handgun, and ammunition. The SWAT team then transported Furda to Montgomery County General Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Later, upon certification of two doctors, Furda was transferred to the Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health facility, where he was kept even though he refused to sign in. He was discharged from Potomac Ridge on March 4, 2003.

[421 Md. 339] A year and a half after Furda's release from Potomac Ridge, the Montgomery County Circuit Court issued an order prohibiting Furda from contacting his wife and requiring that he surrender all firearms to law enforcement for the order's duration.3 The order was to be in effect from its issuance on September 21, 2004 until March 16, 2006. By January 31, 2005, however, Furda violated this order when he contacted and threatened Karen, leading the Circuit Court to sentence him to a suspended one-year term of incarceration and two years of probation.4

On October 31, 2007, after his probation period had ended, Furda filed a Motion for Return of Property seeking the release of the firearms and all other property seized by the SWAT team in 2003. Following a hearing eight days later, the Circuit Court denied Furda's request in part (hereinafter referred to as the “Denial Order”), allowing only the return of “items appearing on the inventory that are not firearms or ammunition[.]” The court would not permit Furda to recover the firearms, finding that “[u]pon the evidence presented.... Furda is considered a prohibited person under 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(4) 5 and is thereby prohibited from possessing firearms.” The court determined that this prohibition extended to the Montgomery County Code, which prevents a person from possessing a firearm if that person “has been confined to any hospital or institution for treatment of a mental disorder [421 Md. 340] or for mental illness[.]” Montgomery County Code § 57– 9(d). The court did not, however, determine whether Furda was also prevented from possessing firearms under State law.

On December 3, 2007, Furda moved for reconsideration of the Denial Order on the grounds that his evaluation by the behavioral health facility did not constitute commitment under federal law. The court denied that motion in a January 15, 2008 order. According to Furda, neither he nor his counsel received this order until “some time later.”

On January 24, 2008, Furda walked into Gilbert's Guns, his motion for reconsideration

[26 A.3d 923]

in hand,6 and applied to buy a Ruger Mark III, a .22 caliber, semiautomatic.7 Relevant to the case here, Question 8 on the Maryland State Police Application and Affidavit to Purchase a Regulated Firearm asked: “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or have you been committed to a mental institution?” Furda answered “No” to this question. 8 Furda also signed the bottom of the application, certifying the following: “I, the below signed Transferee/Voluntary Registrant, certify under the penalty of perjury that the above answers are true and correct and that I am not prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing a regulated firearm.”

[421 Md. 341] Based on his statements on the application, Furda was charged with perjury and making a false statement in a firearm application. At trial, Furda testified that he did not believe that he had been committed to an institution, instead characterizing his stay at Potomac Ridge as an evaluation:

I was submitted to an emergency evaluation petition through the courts by my now ex-wife.... [She] filed a motion [of] false statements ... saying that I had threatened her and the children, which I had never done.

... [T]he Montgomery County Sheriff's Department was sent to my house, and did take me to Montgomery General.... I was then transferred to Potomac Ridge for the I guess 72–hour evaluation that is allowable by the courts ... I had ... read the discharge [which] stated that the doctor had a dilemma as to whether or not to commit me. However, there was no psychosis, no withdrawals, or bad presence, or anything like that. And that without any type of hearing or any adjudication I was released.

When cross-examined, Furda admitted that he had taken his motion of reconsideration to the gun store and that he understood that such a motion meant that he was “asking [the court] to reconsider [its] denial of [his] request[.]” Yet, he also maintained that he did not willingly and knowingly make a false affidavit, explaining that “legally I'm not prohibited. If I've never been committed, I am not a prohibit[ed] person.”

Furda's attorney also took the stand for the defense, and testified that he had advised Furda of the contents of the Denial Order before Furda's trip to Gilbert's Guns. This advice included a discussion of the court's finding that Furda had been involuntarily committed to an institution:

[PROSECUTOR]: Now, ... you said [that] you discussed [the Denial Order] with your client.

[FURDA'S ATTORNEY]: Yes, the first order.

[PROSECUTOR]: ... Unquestionably then Mr. Furda understood that

[the [26 A.3d 924]

court] ruled that he was a prohibit[ed] person because he was involuntarily committed, correct?

[421 Md. 342] [FURDA'S ATTORNEY]: That would be the essence of [the Denial Order].

[PROSECUTOR]: And you discussed that with him?


Furda's attorney was also aware that, under the terms of the order, Furda could not purchase a firearm, and that this prohibition would remain in effect until and unless the order was overturned on appeal. Accordingly, Furda's attorney testified that, although he believed Furda was not ineligible to purchase additional firearms, “[he] would have cautioned [Furda] against it.”

At the trial's conclusion, the court found as a “first-level fact” that Furda knew that the court had made a finding that Furda had been committed to a mental institution, and that the Denial Order was still in effect at the time Furda completed the firearms application. Accordingly, “the false statement was not the result of confusion or an honest mistake.” Rather, Furda knew that his answer to Question 8 was false and he “attempted to deceive the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • State v. McGagh, 12, Sept. Term, 2020
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 29, 2021
    ...has departed from this standard in previous cases concerning the sufficiency to support evidence of a perjury conviction. Furda v. State , 421 Md. 332, 353, 26 A.3d 918, 930-31 (2011) ("[W]e are mindful that the trial judge here did not find Furda to be a credible witness: ‘The Court also f......
  • VEI Catonsville, LLC v. Einbinder Props., LLC., 265
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 25, 2013
    ...of the Options. We accord considerable [212 Md.App. 312]deference to the credibility determinations of the chancellor. See Furda v. State, 421 Md. 332, 353, 26 A.3d 918 (2011). Nor are we persuaded that references to the existence of the improvements as one factor in assessing the income po......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Collins, Misc. Docket AG No. 6, Sept. Term, 2021
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 25, 2022
    ...that, "[t]o be willful, the false oath must be deliberate and not the result of surprise, confusion or bona fide mistake." Furda v. State, 421 Md. 332, 353, 26 A.3d 918, 930 (2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 991, 132 S.Ct. 2376, 182 L.Ed.2d 1025 (2012) (cleaned up).13 Although Collins was not ......
  • Attorney Grievance Comm'n of Md. v. Collins, 6-2021
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • February 25, 2022
    ...that, "[t]o be willful, the false oath must be deliberate and not the result of surprise, confusion or bona fide mistake." Furda v. State, 421 Md. 332, 353, 26 A.3d 918, 930 (2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 991 (2012) (cleaned up).[13] Although Collins was not charged with perjury, clear and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT