Clark v. State

In Clark v. State, 739 P.2d 777 (Alaska App. 1987) Clark was convicted of knowingly possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony. Clark, however, had appealed the underlying felony conviction. After he was convicted of knowingly possessing a firearm, this court reversed his underlying felony conviction. Clark then moved for post-conviction relief from the weapons conviction. On due process grounds, he challenged his conviction as a felon in possession because the underlying felony had been reversed. The trial court denied this challenge. Clark appealed, but the Court upheld his conviction. The Court did so in part because the Court found persuasive the reasoning of the United States Supreme Court in Lewis v. United States 445 U.S. 55 (1980). The Court noted that the Lewis Court had concluded that nothing on the face of the federal statute preventing felons from possessing firearms suggested a congressional intent to limit the coverage of the statute to persons whose convictions were not subject to collateral attack. The Court also noted that the Lewis Court had concluded that basing a felon in possession charge on a constitutionally infirm prior conviction did not violate due process. In Clark v. State, the Court ruled that the defendant could not defend against a charge of felon in possession of a concealable firearm by relying on his erroneous belief that the probation condition barring him from possessing firearms was suspended while his conviction was on appeal. The Court observed that Clark's mistake-of-law claim "amounted only to his personal belief that he was not convicted for purposes of the felon in possession statute while his case was on appeal. This is far from the type of claim where a reasonable mistake of law constitutes a defense."