United States v. Giardina – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Giardina, 861 F.2d 1334 (5th Cir. 1988), the defendant was examined by a staff psychiatrist at a Louisiana health clinic. Id. at 1334.

After the psychiatrist signed a Physician's Emergency Certificate, the police took Giardina to a local hospital, where a deputy coroner executed a Coroner's Emergency Certificate, by which the defendant was detained for treatment for two weeks. Id.

He was then released without any additional hospitalization or legal proceedings. Id.

Giardina was later indicted for "receiving and possessing a firearm after having been committed to a mental institution. . . ." Id. at 1334-35.

After the district court ruled that Giardina had been committed to a mental institution, Giardina appealed. Id. at 1335.

The Fifth Circuit observed that "whether Giardina was committed to a mental institution is a question of federal law, but in making that determination we may seek guidance from state law." Id. at 1335.

It posited: "Was Giardina committed under Louisiana law? If he was not, is that answer consistent with federal policy?" Id.

The court concluded that Giardina's brief, emergency evaluation did not "constitute a commitment under Louisiana law. Id. at 1337.

Therefore, unless this conclusion is inconsistent with federal policy, there has been no violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) by Giardina." Id. at 1336.

The court agreed with the Hansel Court that there is no indication in the statute that Congress intended to prohibit persons who had been hospitalized for observation and examination from possessing firearms. Id. at 1337 .