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United States v. Freed

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Brief Fact Summary.

The federal government appealed the district court’s dismissal of Freed’s possession charge.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Possessing controlled substances does not qualify as a specific intent crime.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The only knowledge required to be proved was knowledge that the instrument possessed was a firearm.

View Full Point of Law

Freed was charged for possession of controlled substances when he possessed unregistered handguns. The district court dismissed Freed’s charge because the federal government did not establish Freed’s intent. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Whether possessing controlled substances qualifies as a specific intent crime?


No. The judgment of the district court is reversed. Here, the possession of hand grenades is only a general intent crime because it was not alleged that Freed intended to perform vicious acts with the hand grenades. Freed can be charged with the possession of a handgun.


(Brennan, J.) If specific intent was required under possession statutes, then any individual could evade possession charges by claiming that they did not know that the substance in which they possess is illegal. It does not matter whether Freed knew the hand grenades were illegal, as long as freed intended to possess the hand grenades.


Specific intent crimes require that an individual perform the act, and intend the specific consequences of the act.

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