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Guilty Plea's Constitutional Consequence Heads to High Court

Publisher: Law360
May 12, 2017
Day Pitney Author(s) Daniel E. Wenner Danielle M. Corcione

Dan Wenner and Danielle Corcione authored an article titled "Guilty Plea's Constitutional Consequence Heads to High Court" that was published by Law360. The article discusses the upcoming case, Class v. United States, in which the Supreme Court will decide whether a "guilty plea inherently waives a defendant's right to challenge the constitutionality of his statute of conviction." In Class, the defendant was prosecuted for having firearms on the "Capitol grounds," which is a statutorily defined area where firearms are prohibited. Class claimed the statute violated his Second Amendment rights, but the district court disagreed. Class pleaded guilty without specifically preserving his constitutional challenge for appeal. On appeal, the court dismissed his case because he had pleaded guilty and held that the guilty plea extinguished his constitutional claims. To resolve a circuit split about whether a guilty plea extinguishes claims that the statute of prosecution is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court granted certiorari. Wenner and Corcione concluded that regardless of how the Supreme Court resolves the issue, explicitly preserving constitutional issues in plea agreements is "an important belt-and-suspenders approach to ensur[ing] that any defendant is not caught in Class's position."


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