Cases & Deals

Pro bono client successfully challenges Bureau of Prisons' classification of his offenses as crimes of violence

Client(s) Michael Evans

On July 12, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decided Evans v. Zych, granting a complete victory for Jones Day pro bono client Michael Evans, who is currently serving a sentence for the possession and transfer of unlicensed firearms. Evans had filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the Bureau of Prisons' classification of his offenses as crimes of violence, and also contending that he had been deprived access to his legal papers. The district court, in the Eastern District of Michigan, denied relief on both claims. Jones Day represented Evans before the Sixth Circuit, and argued that his offenses were not crimes of violence under the relevant statutory definition, and that the district court's decision about Evans's access to his legal papers should be vacated.

The Sixth Circuit agreed in full. In a question of first impression within the circuit—and on which other circuits have split—the court held that the possession or transfer of an unlicensed firearm, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5861, is not a crime of violence under the language of 18 U.S.C. § 4042(b). The Sixth Circuit explained that "an individual may violate § 5861 by unlawfully possessing or transferring an unregistered firearm without necessarily involving any risk, let alone any substantial risk, that force will be used against another." The court reversed the district court's decision to the contrary, and ordered the reclassification of Evans's offenses. The Sixth Circuit also vacated the district court's decision pertaining to whether Evans had adequate access to his legal papers.

Evans v. Zych, --- F.3d ----, 2011 WL 2685599 (6th Cir. 2011)