Judicial Building

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Johnson County man can’t be charged for falsely answering a question on a request for a gun permit when the question wasn’t required by law.

James Downey filled out the application for a gun permit in Johnson County in January of 2015. He provided his name, birthdate, sex, phone number, address, driver’s license number, place of birth, and country of citizenship on the front side of the form. And he gave approval for a background check.

Downey turned the form over to find 10 questions with yes or no answers.  He answered “no” to whether he had ever been convicted of a felony. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department did a background check and charged him with felony count of making a false statement when the check turned up a felony third offense OWI conviction.

The Department of Public Safety provides the permit applications to the Sheriff Departments. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says the legislature has authorized DPS to require additional information on an application to carry a concealed weapon — including matters concerning alcohol use, prior convictions of serious or aggravated misdemeanors, prior felony convictions, and crimes of domestic violence. But it says the legislature doesn’t require that information on an application to acquire a weapon.

The Supreme Court ruling says DPS added the series of questions to application to acquire a weapon that are not authorized. The ruling says if the court were to find a violation when a person falsely answers a question not authorized by the legislature, “we are in fact allowing the executive branch, through the actions of the DPS, to define the crime.”

The court says if unauthorized question on weapons permit application were allowed to be the basis for a crime,  someone could be asked the color of their car,  and then be charged with a felony if they gave the wrong color.

The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals upholding the charge, reversed the judgment of the district court finding Downey guilty of the violation, and order the case back to district court to be dismissed.

Here’s the full ruling: Gun Application ruling PDF