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United States v. Allen

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 3, 2016



          B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge.


         Pending before the Court is Defendant Jacob Edward Allen’s Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Dkt. 22). Allen contends that the charges brought against him under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4), for illegal possession of a firearm, are unconstitutional as applied in this case. For the reasons explained below, this Court will deny the motion.


         Allen is a thirty-six year-old Idaho citizen, born and raised in Valley County, Idaho. Allen has struggled with episodes of mental illness and has been involuntarily committed for psychiatric care on multiple occasions. The charges brought against him stem from his alleged possession of a firearm after having been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

         Allen’s parents and sister submitted an application to have Allen committed for involuntary mental health treatment on April 29, 2011, see Apr. 29, 2011 Application, Gvt. Ex. 1, Dkt. 30-1, although the record does not indicate the ultimate outcome of that proceeding. See Def’s Br. at 2, n.1, Dkt. 22. Allen’s family submitted another application for involuntary commitment in March 2013, but that application was subsequently dismissed. See id., Ex. B thereto. A third application was submitted on June 19, 2013, that the defendant, with the assistance of legal counsel, ultimately stipulated to. See Order of Commitment-Jun. 19, 2013, Dkt. 22-4.

         The June 2013 commitment was brought pursuant to Idaho Code § 66-329 after a finding that the “patient is mentally ill and is in need of supervision, treatment, care and restraint” as well as that “due to such mental illness, the patient is likely to injure self and/or others and/or is gravely disabled.” Id. The court classified Allen’s mental illness as schizophrenia, which was diagnosed after Allen experienced “religious delusions” that caused him to hike into the wilderness for several days “without adequate clothing, food or water.” Certificate of Designated Examiner-Jun. 19, 2013, at 2, Dkt. 22-2. The report also stated that Allen “denies that he has a mental illness and has not been taking his medication as prescribed.” Id. After receiving care, Allen’s commitment was terminated on July 18, 2013, after an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare examiner found that “the conditions justifying commitment no longer exist as defined in Section 66-317, Idaho Code.” Termination of Commitment-Jul. 18, 2013, Dkt. 22-6.

         Allen was committed again on July 20, 2015, after suffering another schizophrenic episode. Order of Commitment-Jul. 20, 2015, Dkt. 22-7. The defendant was again represented by legal counsel. Id. The court found this time that Allen’s mental illness required commitment because “the patient is likely to injure others.” Id. However, Allen’s commitment was again terminated on July 28, 2015, based on a finding that the “conditions justifying commitment no longer exist . . . .” Termination of Commitment-Jul. 28, 2015, Dkt. 22-8.

         On September 8, 2015, staff at the Cascade Medical Center asked Valley County Sheriff’s deputies to locate Mr. Allen and place him on a mental hold after he missed a scheduled psychiatric appointment. Sheriff’s Incident Summary, at 2, Dkt. 22-9. The caller also stated that Allen “was not taking his medications and threatening his family.” Id. Deputies received reports from at least two individuals who confirmed that Allen had been acting strangely and had made threats to harm them. Id. One witness reported that Allen had a .22 rifle and a muzzleloader rifle in his vehicle and had made a veiled threat against him. See Sheriff’s Office Report, Dkt 30-3.

         Later that day, deputies located Allen’s truck and camper trailer parked near a roadway with the driver’s door of the truck open. Sheriff’s Incident Summary, at 3, Dkt. 22-9. Deputies found a bolt action .22 rifle in Allen’s vehicle. Id. at 3-4. Deputies thereafter placed Allen in custody.

         Allen once again stipulated to involuntary commitment on September 14, 2015, while being represented by counsel. Order of Commitment-Sept. 14, 2015, Dkt. 22-10. In addition to the involuntary mental commitment, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Allen with one count of knowingly possessing a .22 caliber rifle, after having been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution. Indictment, Dkt. 1. The charge was brought under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).


         Allen challenges the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4), as applied to him, in three respects. First, he contends that the statute impermissibly restricts his Second Amendment right to possess weapons. Second, he says that the statute violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment because it subjects him to criminal liability for otherwise “innocent” conduct without notice. Third, Allen contends that the statute violates the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection clause because it “irrationally discriminates between those committed federally and those committed through state proceedings.” Def’s Br. at 4, Dkt. 22-1.

         A. Second Amendment

         When analyzing a citizen’s challenge under the Second Amendment, the Ninth Circuit has adopted a two-step inquiry in which this Court first must determine whether the challenged law burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment and, if, so, “apply an appropriate level ...

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