Felon in possession – if no defense, stipulate

In Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 185, 117 S. Ct. 644, 136 L. Ed. 2d 574 (1997), the United States Supreme Court held that where the defendant’s status as a felon is an element of the crime charged, and a defendant offers to stipulate to his prior record for purpose of establishing a prior felony under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), the government must accept this stipulation and may not present further evidence of defendant’s prior criminal history before the jury. Old Chief , 519 U.S. at 178. Moreover, a trial court which refuses to accept such a stipulation abuses its discretion. Id. The Mississippi Court of Appeals has held that where the defendant is charged wth felon-in-possession, defense counsel has an obligation to determine the validity of the alleged priors and, if there is no defense, it may well be ineffective assistance to fail to stipulate that the defendant has a prior valid felony since the stipulation will prevent the jury from learning there are multiple priors and the details of same. “The practice of allowing a defendant to stipulate to his status as a previously convicted felon has been strongly endorsed by the United States Supreme Court.” Timms v. State, 54 So.3d 310, 314 (Miss.App. 2011). The Court reversed for that reason in Timms and Herrington v. State, 102 So.3d 1241 (Miss.App. 2012).

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