House Bill 593 — Criminal records and firearms

Lindsay Atkinson 2020 House bill ratings Leave a Comment

Bill description: HB 593 would alter restrictions on the right to bear arms and clarify the process to receive an amended judgement.

Rating: +3

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the US Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the US Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? 

HB 593 clarifies that felons are not lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, but other persons are. This bill exempts two groups from the current restrictions on firearm possession: 1) people convicted of crimes relating to business practices (essentially nonviolent, white-collar crimes) on the state or federal level and 2) people convicted of misdemeanors that resulted in less than two years in prison. 

Thus, this bill upholds the spirit of the Idaho Constitution, which states in Article I, Section 11 that the Legislature can only establish laws regulating the right to bear arms for “the possession of firearms by a convicted felon.” The bill ensures Idaho law regulating the possession of firearms will only apply to those with felony convictions, not low-level misdemeanors.

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However, this same bill removes a reference to section 18-310, Idaho Code, which specifically lists out felony convictions for which “the right to ship, transport, possess or receive a firearm shall not be restored.” Thus, instead of a list of about 35 crimes that could limit a person’s ability to possess a firearm, this bill would potentially restrict possession for any felony conviction or “crime punishable by more than one (1) year of imprisonment whether in this state or in another state.”

Thus, this bill is simultaneously clearer and murkier than current law regarding who can bear firearms.

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Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non- violent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes? 

By clarifying that those with misdemeanor convictions retain the right to bear arms, this bill clarifies that they are not subject to the penalties imposed on those with felony convictions if they are found in possession of firearms. Specifically, they will not be charged with a felony, imprisoned for 5 years, and fined $5,000 for possession. 

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HB 593 also clarifies who can apply to a district court to receive an amended judgement, which is a change to the final judgement of a case. 

For instance, the bill clarifies that any defendant in a misdemeanor case can apply. And it adds that a defendant who “successfully completes [a] period of retained jurisdiction and is granted probation” can apply.

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The bill also adds another criterion a person with a criminal record must meet before a felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor through an amended judgement. However, this additional qualification makes sense. Before a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor, the individual who committed it must have completed probation and satisfied financial obligations resulting from the crime, such as “court costs, fees, fines, and victim restitution.”

This provision also upholds Article I, Section 22 of the Idaho Constitution, about the rights of crime victims. The constitution explicitly states that crime victims are entitled “to restitution, as provided by law, from the person committing the offense that caused the victim’s loss.” The criminals who are to receive a reduced sentence must first provide proper restitution to their victim(s).

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