US v. Smith: Smith possessed firearms and was charged with being a felon in possession of them. The basis for the charge was a prior North Carolina prosecution for larceny by an employee, which was resolved under the “conditional discharge” provision of state law. That proves that the court does not enter a judgment of guilt and deferred further proceedings while the defendant is placed on probation. If the probation conditions are fulfilled, no final judgment is filed and the original plea is withdrawn. Smith possessed the firearms while he was still on probation. After his motion to dismiss the felon-in-possession charge was denied, he entered a conditional guilty plea.
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Smith’s motion to dismiss and vacated his conviction. The court noted that to be guilty of being a felon-in-possession of a firearm the possession of the firearm must have occurred after the person was “convicted.” In this case, Smith was never actually convicted under North Carolina law because the judgment was never entered in his state case. As such, when Smith possessed the firearms, he was not a felon.