Think you aren't a felon? Think again!

In 2004, Nile Stark was convicted of the felony possession of a controlled substance. A "Judgment" convicting him of this felony was entered. He was placed on probation for 18 months and the court noted that if he successfully completed his probationary term he could ask the court to reduce his felony conviction to a misdemeanor. Having successfully completed his probation in 2006 Mr. Stark applied for and was granted an "Order" reducing his felony conviction to a misdemeanor.

Fast forward now to 2008 and Mr. Stark finds himself being charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm based on his 2004 drug conviction which had since been reduced to a misdemeanor. But he is not a felon you say? Surely, you think to yourself, he can't be convicted right? I mean, after all, he possessed the gun after his conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor.

According to the Oregon Supreme Court, the issue was not so clear. In the trial court the government argued that because Stark's felony drug conviction had not been reduced at his original sentencing but only after he completed probation, he was still technically a felon for purposes of Oregon's felon in possession of firearm laws.

And even though the court ultimately agreed with Stark and his lawyers that felony judgments which are reduced - sometimes years - after the original felony conviction cannot be the basis for a charge of being a felon in possession, the Oregon Supremes reached deeper. The court held that the "Judgment" itself - either at the time of sentencing or later - needs to reduce the felony charge to be a bar to a felon in possession prosecution. (This is true even though the felon in possession law states plainly the reduction need only occur "at the time of the judgment." )

In Stark's case, sadly, he - or his lawyers- had not asked in 2006 for a "Judgment" reflecting a reduction in his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor but rather had requested and received an "Order" purporting to do the same. According to the Supreme's because an "Order" is not a "Judgment," and because there was no "Judgment" reducing his felony crime to a misdemeanor, Mr. Stark was properly convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

So now poor Mr. Stark really is a convicted felon after having been convicted of the class C felony of being a felon in possession of a firearm as a result of a prior conviction that for all intents and purposes and but for a matter of legal jingo had been reduced to a misdemeanor. Still, think you don't need an experienced criminal defense attorney in even what appears to be a simple matter? Think again.


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