A Cincinnati.com/ USAToday article this morning relates to "dozens of federal prisoners being locked up even though prosecutors concede they are 'legally innocent' who could soon be released under new orders from the U.S. Justice Department following a USA TODAY investigation in June that identified more than 60 people who were imprisoned for something an appeals court later determined was not a federal crime."
The incident appears limited to North Carolina.
"Federal law prohibits," the article continued, "people from having a gun if they have been previously convicted of a crime that could have put them in prison for more than a year. In North Carolina, however, state law set the maximum punishment for a crime based in part on the criminal record of whoever committed it, meaning some people who committed crimes such as possessing cocaine faced sentences of more than a year, while those with shorter records face only a few months. Federal courts there said that didn't matter -- If someone with a long record could have gone to prison for more than a year, then all who had committed that crime are felons and cannot legally have a gun, the courts maintained. But last year, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said judges had been getting the law wrong: Only people who could have faced more than a year in prison for their crimes qualify as felons. Its decision meant thousands of low-level offenders are not committing a federal crime by having a gun."
USAToday in an earlier article at the time of its investigation, had reported "the 4th Circuit's decision came in a little-noticed drug case limited to North Carolina, United States v. Simmons, but its implications could be dramatic. For one thing, tens of thousands of people in North Carolina have criminal records that no longer make having a gun a federal crime. About half of the felony convictions in North Carolina's state courts over the past decade were for offenses that no longer count as felonies under federal law."