United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Jeffrey Benedetto, has sued two federal
defendants, Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions, III and
Thomas E. Brandon, the Acting Director for the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. He also has sued
two state defendants, William L. Pallozzi, Secretary of the
Maryland Department of State Police, and Brian E. Frosh,
Attorney General of Maryland. Benedetto asserts an as-applied
challenge to a federal firearms statute, 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1), and Maryland's equivalent firearms statutes,
Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(1), § 5-144,
and § 5-205(b)(1), claiming that they are
unconstitutional burdens on his second amendment rights and
ex post facto punishments in violation of the United States
Constitution, U.S. Const. art. 1, § 9, cl. 3 (applies to
the federal government); U.S. Const. art. 1, § 10, cl. 1
(applies to the states).
plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment, and both
federal and state defendants have moved to dismiss the claim.
For the reasons stated below, this court will deny the
plaintiff's motion and will grant the defendants'
motions to dismiss.
1992, Jeffrey Benedetto pled guilty to a misdemeanor battery
charge under what is now § 3-203 of the Maryland Code of
Criminal Law. (Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 7). He received a
one-year suspended sentence and 18 months of probation.
(Id.). Since his guilty plea, Benedetto has not been
arrested or convicted of another crime. He completed his
sentence and probation without incident. (Id.).
years later, in 2016, Benedetto tried and failed to obtain a
handgun license to defend “himself and his family
within his home.” (Id. at ¶ 1). He was
informed by Maryland State Police that he was disqualified
from gun ownership under the Maryland Gun Violence Act of
1996 because his 1992 misdemeanor conviction carries a
statutory penalty of greater than two years. (See
Id. at ¶ 8). Benedetto appealed the decision but
was rebuffed by both the Maryland Office of Administrative
Appeals and the Circuit Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel
County. (Id. at ¶ 9).
now sues the state and federal defendants in federal court
for declaratory and injunctive relief. He asserts as-applied
second amendment challenges against the federal and Maryland
firearms regulations: 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and Md. Code
Ann., Pub. Safety §§ 5-133(b)(1), 5-144, and
5-205(b)(1). He also claims that the laws constitute ex
post facto punishment in violation of the Constitution.
Because Benedetto is not a “law-abiding and responsible
citizen” and because the Fourth Circuit already has
upheld § 922(g)(1), a law substantially similar to the
Maryland firearms statutes, against an ex post facto claim,
Benedetto's claims must be dismissed.
ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must
“accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as
true, ” and “construe the facts and reasonable
inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120
F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). “Even though the
requirements for pleading a proper complaint are
substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against
him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial
and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints.”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
2009). “The mere recital of elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the
factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). “To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need
not ‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.”
Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citation omitted).
“Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate
in a complaint that the right to relief is ‘probable,
' the complaint must advance the plaintiff's claim
‘across the line from conceivable to
plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
complaint contains two challenges. The first alleges that the
federal and Maryland firearms laws are unconstitutional as
applied because Benedetto pled guilty to a misdemeanor, not a
felony. The second asserts that the challenged laws violate
the ex post facto clauses of the Constitution.
Second Amendment Challenge
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008),
the Fourth Circuit has used a two-step framework to address
second amendment challenges. The first step requires a court
to determine whether the challenged law burdens or regulates
the second amendment as it was understood in 1791.
Hamilton v. Pallozzi, 848 F.3d 614, 623 (4th Cir.
2017). If the court finds that the second amendment is
burdened, the second step requires a court to apply
intermediate scrutiny to the law. Kolbe v. Hogan,
813 F.3d 160, 179 (4th Cir. 2016).
dealing with a presumptively valid regulatory law, however,
the court should streamline the first step of the test.
Hamilton, 848 F.3d at 623. A presumptively valid law
is any law that does not infringe upon the “law-abiding
and responsible citizen['s] [freedom] to use arms in
defense of hearth and home.” District of Columbia
v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 635 (2008). In such cases, the
court can bypass the historical analysis otherwise required
by Heller and instead presume that the challenged
law is valid unless the plaintiff rebuts that presumption.
Hamilton, 848 F.3d at 624. A plaintiff can