President Joe Biden’s son has been charged with federal crimes related to his purchase of a revolver during a time when he was actively using crack cocaine.
Special Counsel David Weiss filed three counts against Hunter Biden in Delaware federal court on Thursday. Two of the felony charges are related to accusations the younger Biden lied on the background check he filed out in order to purchase a Colt Cobra revolver in October 2018. The third is over allegations that he continued using hard drugs for the two weeks he owned the gun.
The indictment claims Hunter “made a false statement” on the background check form “that he was not an unlawful user of, and addicted to, any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance, when in fact, as he knew, that statement was false and fictitious.” It further alleges that “defendant Robert Hunter Biden, knowing that he was an unlawful user of and addicted to any stimulant, narcotic drug, and any other controlled substance as defined in Title 21, United States Code, Section 802, did knowingly possess a firearm.”
If convicted, Hunter could face years in federal prison as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
The charges push Hunter back into renewed legal jeopardy after a plea deal that would have sent him to a pre-trial diversion program over the gun charges and put two tax-related misdemeanors on his record but resulted in no jail time fell apart under scrutiny from the judge overseeing the case. The case also casts Hunter back into the public eye as he may have to fight felony charges while his father, a staunch gun-control advocate, is pursuing reelection. Hunter’s legal defense could also run counter to the President’s position on gun policy since Hunter’s lawyers reportedly threatened to use a Second Amendment defense and call Joe Biden to the stand to testify on his behalf.
The charges stem from an incident in the fall of 2018. Shortly after Hunter Biden purchased the revolver in question, his then-girlfriend grew concerned about his safety and threw the gun in a dumpster behind a Delaware grocery store. It was later recovered and turned over to local police. The case received renewed interest in 2021 when Politico reported Secret Service agents, who were not tasked with protecting the younger Biden at the time, attempted to retrieve the background check form related to Hunter’s revolver purchase but were rebuked by the licensed gun dealer because they didn’t have jurisdiction.
The renewed attention came just before Hunter launched a national media tour touting his memoir “Beautiful Things.” In the book, he claimed he was using crack cocaine “every 15 minutes” during the period when he bought and owned the gun. During the hearing for his failed plea deal, Hunter said that claim piqued the prosecutors’ interest because it indicated he may have lied on the gun background check in a section requiring a purchaser to attest they aren’t addicted to illicit drugs. Most other public information about Hunter’s drug use dealt with periods before the 2018 revolver purchase.
If the case makes it to trial and Hunter challenges the constitutionality of the drug-user gun ban, he could have a better chance of success than in recent years. The Supreme Court set a new standard of review in Second Amendment cases during last year’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which requires the government to show a longstanding tradition backs the gun restriction in question. That’s led several lower courts to conclude the drug-user gun ban is unconstitutional.
Jared Michael Harrison was indicted under the drug-user gun prohibition by a federal grand jury over a May 2022 traffic stop that found marijuana and a pistol in his car. In February 2023, U.S. District Judge Patrick Wyrick ruled the ban violates Harrison’s Second Amendment rights. In April, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone threw out a case against Paola Connelly for using marijuana while owning firearms. Last month, a Fifth Circuit panel concurred with Judge Cardone’s conclusion.
Still, the outcome of the case is difficult to predict. South Texas College of Law Professor Dru Stevenson, who has published research on drug-user-in-possession charges, said the charges Biden are facing is rarely seen in standalone prosecutions. He estimated there are about 200 convictions a year nationwide despite the fact the charge could likely be brought far more often if prosecutors made it a priority.
“As a general matter, it is extraordinarily rare to see cases where 922(g)3 is brought as a standalone charge – the circumstances of the arrest that led to the charge typically involve a drug bust or drug-related violence, so it is one of several charges in the case,” Stevenson told The Reload in June.
Additionally, while the Fifth Circuit is the only appeals court to hear a drug-user gun prohibition case since Bruen, most federal judges who have heard a case in that time have upheld the law. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams upheld the drug-user gun ban in another case that dealt with a marijuana user found with a firearm.