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Fall 1996 Criminal Law Midterm (revised)

Chuck Connors has always enjoyed working with guns. He has a large personal collection of rifles and antique guns and has developed considerable expertise in repairing and refurbishing rifles. He does so as a hobby and sells the refurbished firearms from his home. Because he does so on a casual rather than a regular basis, he is not subject to the fairly restrictive laws that govern licensing and regulation of firearms dealers. Thus, his sales are legal unless they violate a particular provision of federal, state or local law.

Chuck tends to be busiest just before the opening of hunting season. Although he does not advertise the availability of his rifles, he is known locally for the quality of his work and the relatively low cost of the firearms he sells. One Saturday afternoon shortly before the beginning of hunting season, Chuck was at home working on a rifle in need of repair when a car pulled up to his house. It appeared that several young people were in the vehicle. Chuck thought one of the young men was Jesse Jeans, who had gone to school with his fifteen year old daughter before he moved to another school district. He asked the young man who came to the door whether one of the people in the car was Jesse, and the young man responded it was not. Chuck was surprised given how much he looked like Jesse. Before he could pursue the matter further, the young man, who identified himself as Tom Tean, indicated that he was interested in purchasing a rifle since he was going on a hunting trip the following week. Chuck asked Tom how old he was, and Tom responded that he was 19. That surprised Chuck, because Tom looked quite a bit younger, as did the other young people in the car. Tom sensed that Chuck had some question about his age and the fact that his companions appeared even younger than he did, so he made an offhand comment to the effect that his younger brother and his brother's friends were waiting in the car.

Chuck asked Tom for identification. Tom produced a driver's license from out of state. The license was somewhat beat up but was readable and the picture, although slightly blurry, looked pretty much like Tom. The license showed a birth date indicating that Tom was 19 years old. Chuck questioned the out-of-state license and was told that Tom had recently moved to the area and hadn't obtained a new license. Chuck noticed that the license plates on the car Tom was driving were local, but before he could comment, Tom was over at Chuck's gun rack looking over several rifles. Tom immediately expressed interest in a particular gun and Chuck began to explain the background of that particular firearm and the quality of the workmanship that went into its repair. It was obvious Chuck was proud of his work.

As Tom was examining the rifle and Chuck was thinking about whether to request further ID, another car pulled up and a young man came to the door. He identified himself as Bob Boyd and indicated he was there to purchase a rifle. Chuck asked him how old he was and he responded 17. Just as Chuck began to tell Bob he could not sell him a firearm since he was under age, Bob pulled out a notarized form and gave it to Chuck. The form was a consent to purchase a rifle signed by Sam Stepp. It read: "I hereby give my stepson, Bob Boyd, permission to purchase a rifle.' The signature was notarized and a notary stamp was on the form. Just to be sure, Chuck decided to call Sam and make sure he had actually signed the form. He asked Bob for ID, copied the address from his license, and looked in the phone book for a Stepp at that address. He found the number and called. When a child answered, he asked for Sam Stepp and someone who clearly sounded like an adult came to the phone. The person identified himself as Sam and indicated that he had in fact signed the form giving his stepson permission to purchase a rifle. This satisfied Chuck and he agreed to sell the rifle Bob had selected to him. Meanwhile, Tom had also selected a rifle. About the same time two other potential customers arrived. It looked like this was going to be one of Chuck's busiest days in years.

Chuck apparently forgot his concern about Tom's ID when things got busy and he had the opportunity to talk to people about the guns he loved. He prepared sales documents and sold rifles to both Tom and Bob. He then took care of his other customers. He made sure to file the consent form he received from Bob with his copy of the sales receipt.

Two weeks later, police arrested Chuck. It appears that Tom Tean is really only 16 and did not have his parents' consent to have a rifle. In fact, they had specifically forbidden him to have any weapon, and when they found the rifle in his car, they called the police, who traced the gun back to Chuck. Apparently the license he showed Chuck was a fake and was designed as an out-of-state license because local licenses are harder to alter or copy. In addition, unfortunately, Bob was involved in a hunting accident in which one of his friends was injured. When police investigated, they determined that Bob had purchased the rifle that caused the injury from Chuck. When they investigated further, they discovered that although Chuck had gotten a written consent from Sam, that consent was not legally sufficient because, under state law, as a stepfather, Sam was not Bob's parent or legal guardian since he had not adopted Bob and since Bob's natural father was still living.

Consider the potential criminal liability of Chuck Connors in the following jurisdictions under the following statutes only.

Arkansa - a common law jurisdiction

Ark. G. L. 568.400

Whoever knowingly sells, transfers or otherwise delivers a firearm to a minor without the valid written consent of his parent or legal guardian shall be guilty of a Class D felony.

Mokans - an MPC jurisdiction

Mok. G. L. 350.500

Whoever knowingly sells, delivers or otherwise transfers a firearm to a person who has been convicted of a felony, or who is under indictment or information for any crime, or who has been adjudged mentally incompetent; or, without the valid written permission of a minor's parent or legal guardian, sells, delivers or otherwise transfers a firearm to a minor, shall be guilty of a Class D felony.

(Note that there is no allegation that Chuck can be charged under the first part of this statute. Note also that the age of majority in both jurisdictions is 18, and that a rifle is a firearm within the meaning of both statutes)