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United States v. Schoendaller

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 1, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVIS WILLIAM SCHOENDALLER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. OVERVIEW

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Travis Schoendaller's Motion to Dismiss Indictment. Dkt. 21. Schoendaller asserts that the indictment in this matter violates his Second Amendment rights. On March 13, 2019, the Court held oral argument and took the motion under advisement. Upon review, and for the reasons outlined below, the Court finds good cause to DENY the Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On February 23, 2018, an Idaho State Police trooper stopped Schoendaller for a traffic violation. During the stop, Schoendaller admitted to having firearms in the vehicle. When the trooper performed a records check, it revealed an active protection order against Schoendaller. Schoendaller was arrested and charged with driving on a suspended license and violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). A Grand Jury subsequently indicted Schoendaller for one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of a court order, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8).[1]

         The underlying court order-a protective order-forming the basis for this charge was entered on September 8, 2017, by a state court magistrate judge in the Circuit Court of the 8* Judicial District in Converse County, Wyoming.

         In 2017, Schoendaller, his wife Amber, and their daughter (SS) lived in Idaho. Schoendaller and Amber split in August of 2017, and Amber and SS moved to Wyoming. Amber subsequently petitioned for a protective order against Schoendaller. A hearing was held on Amber's petition. Schoendaller received notice of the hearing and attended it by telephone.

         During the hearing, the Court heard testimony from Schoendaller and Amber. The magistrate judge stated he was going to grant the protection order but gave Schoendaller the opportunity to stipulate to the entry of the order. Alternatively, the judge stated that he would enter the order with a finding that Schoendaller committed an act of domestic violence. Ultimately, Schoendaller consented to the order. In light of Schoendaller's consent, the judge stated there would be no finding on the record that Schoendaller committed an act of domestic violence. The judge then entered the protection order.

         In doing so, the judge checked a box on the order form stating that Schoendaller had consented to the the entry of the order even though he disputes that he committed an act of domestic violence. The judge then ordered Schoendaller to not possess any firearms during the pendency of the protection order which was set to expire on September 8, 2018. The judge also advised Schoendaller that he would be in violation of federal law if found in possession of a firearm while the protective order was active. Schoendaller now argues that because there was no adjudicated finding that Schoendaller committed an act of domestic violence or posed a credible threat to his wife, the indictment under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) violates his Second Amendment rights.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         When a statute is challenged on Second Amendment grounds, strict scrutiny or intermediate scrutiny may apply. District of Columbia. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 628 n.27 (2008). For a statute to withstand intermediate scrutiny, the Government must demonstrate a "significant, substantial, or important" objective in enforcing the statute. United States v. Chovan, 753 F.3d. 1127, 1139 (9th Cir. 2013). It must then show there is a "reasonable fit between the challenged regulation and the asserted objective." Id. Conversely, under strict scrutiny, "the law must advance a compelling state interest by the least restrictive means available." Bernal v. Fainter, 467 U.S. 216, 219 (1984).

         The Ninth Circuit has explained that whether strict scrutiny or intermediate scrutiny applies in a Second Amendment challenge to a statute depends on two factors: "(1) how close the law comes to the core of the Second Amendment right, and (2) the severity of the law's burden on the right." Chovan, 735 F.3d at 1138. The Court finds that intermediate scrutiny applies and denies the motion to dismiss the indictment for the reasons explained below.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Required scrutiny

         The Court finds that section 922(g)(8) does not implicate a core Second Amendment right. In Heller, The United States Supreme Court found that strict scrutiny applied to a D.C. statute prohibiting all handgun possession in homes regardless of criminal background. The Court reasoned that the Second Amendment's protection is at its core when it concerns the right of "law-abiding responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home." Heller, 554 U.S. at 635. Schoendaller argues that, because there has never been an official finding that he committed an act of domestic violence or posed a credible threat, he is a "law-abiding responsible citizen" under Heller. Thus, concludes Schoendaller, the statute as applied to him implicates his core Second Amendment rights and strict scrutiny applies.

         The Court disagrees with this reasoning. First, Schoendaller has a temporary protective order against him prohibiting him from possessing firearms. When a protective order is entered against an individual, at minimum, a court has found sufficient justification to suspend the Second Amendment rights of the individual. So, although Schoendaller was not found to have violated the law, he has lesser standing ...


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