People v. Akeem Wallace


Issue Before the Court: Whether the “outside of home or place of business” exception to Penal Law § 265.03(3), which proscribes possession of a firearm, applies to a “newer manager who ha[d] not been trained as an assistant manager” at a McDonald’s. 


Held: Nope. The court chooses to construe the exception “narrowly.”


CAL Observes: The rule the Court devises in this case, with no source in the text of Penal Law § 265.03(3), essentially creates a class-based distinction: if you are someone with property rights or in upper management—a “merchant, storekeeper, or principal operator” of an establishment—you are protected from felony prosecution; if you are a middle manager or employee (however those terms are defined), you are not. 


After acknowledging that “place of business” is not defined by the Penal Law, the Court looks to the history of this provision and of Penal Law § 400.00, which governs the licensing of guns and defines “place of business” as applying only to merchants and storekeepers. It then chooses to construe Penal Law § 265.03 together with Penal Law § 400.00, despite 265.03’s omission of the “merchant or storekeeper” language. Narrow construction to effectuate the Legislature’s interest in gun control is one thing, but the Court is making a somewhat arbitrary choice that disproportionately affects those who are without proprietary interest in the business or part of high-level management, who cannot avail themselves of this exception. As Judge Stein points out in her concurrance, the reasoning is a bit disingenuous, as who qualifies as a “merchant, storekeeper, or principal operator” is left unclear by the decision, which without basis “excludes individuals who control the day-to-day operations of a business, but lack a proprietary or possessory ownership.”