SAF Files Amicus Brief in Case Over Set-Aside Conviction

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Anyone can make a mistake. In fact, everyone makes mistakes.

Where things differ, though, is in the scale of our mistakes. Dating that person you know you probably shouldn’t date might be a mistake, but it’s not, say, stealing a car.


But one of the great things about this country is that we give people a second chance, right?

Well, not really. If people make the wrong kind of mistake, they can find themselves punished over and over again, particularly with regard to their gun rights. Even having a conviction set aside by the state may not be enough to avoid problems, as one woman found out.

Now, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has issued an amicus brief on this woman’s behalf.

The brief supports a woman named Amanda Jo Reese, whose conviction in Arizona was set aside by the Superior Court of Arizona for the County of Mohave. The Pennsylvania State Police contend the set aside does not relieve Reese from the state’s gun control laws.

“Our amicus brief contends the administrative law judge’s determination in Ms. Reese’s case was correct, and that her criminal conviction no longer exists, which is consistent with the Arizona Superior Court’s decision setting aside an earlier guilty verdict in that state,” explained SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut. “But the Pennsylvania State Police are stubbornly refusing to recognize the court’s action, and continue to deny Ms. Reese’s application, and essentially her right to keep and bear arms.”

SAF’s amicus brief includes a brief history of Ms. Reese’s legal trouble, noting that back in March 2005, “the Superior Court of Arizona for the County of Mohave issued three identical Orders “setting aside the judgment of guilt…dismissing the accusation or information, and releasing the defendant from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction.”

“That’s as matter-of-fact as anyone can get,” Kraut observed. “We’re submitting this amicus brief because the State Police’s contention that individuals who had their convictions set-aside and their rights restored are somehow still prohibited under Pennsylvania law offends prior precedent and defies logic.”


We don’t know what Reese was convicted of, but that doesn’t actually matter. Those convictions were set aside by the Arizona court. It was as if that conviction never happened.

But now Pennsylvania has said she’s not eligible for a concealed carry permit because of that set-aside conviction, meaning that they don’t actually view them as having been set aside.

Obviously, this isn’t the only such case we’ve seen where people are penalized for convictions the courts have thrown out after the fact. In fact, it seems to be something of a growing trend.

It’s also a troubling trend.

Now, it should be noted that Reese seems to have the totality of her voting rights, which is the other right convicted felons are stripped of, which suggests that in that regard, Pennsylvania has no issue with her or her set-aside conviction.

And the fact that they’re willing to treat the right to bear arms as a privilege and deny it to her is why so many of us say the Second Amendment is treated like a second class right.


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