For the professional edge in your day-to-day practice, rely on the most timely, objective reporting on significant developments, trends, and emerging patterns in criminal law today—Criminal Law...
A federal judge can consider a lesser sentence for underlying crimes if the defendant convicted in the case faces a long prison term for using a gun, the U.S. Supreme Court held April 3 ( Dean v. United States , 2017 BL 107794, U.S., No. 15-9260, 4/3/17 ).
The firearms measure doesn’t trump the general federal sentencing statute’s holistic mandate, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote for the unanimous court.
“The bar on imposing concurrent sentences does not affect a court’s discretion to consider a mandatory minimum when calculating each individual sentence,” he wrote.
The decision drew mixed reactions.
“The ruling might well be correct as a literal reading of the statute, but frustrates Congress’s quite clear intent to maximize punishment where it’s most needed, to wit, for repeat felons who arm themselves,” William G. Otis, a former federal prosecutor and special counsel to President George H. W. Bush, told Bloomberg BNA in an email.
Otis, who now teaches at Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, added that “Congress can fix the problem by more specific statutory language. For example, by requiring at least some rock bottom minimum sentence for the underlying crime.”
The decision “is an important victory for criminal defendants and their families,” Amy Mason Saharia of Williams & Connolly LLP said in an email to Bloomberg BNA.
She participated in an amicus brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Families Against Mandatory Minimums in support of the petitioner, Levon Dean Jr.
“As the Court recognized, the fact that defendants convicted under § 924(c) face lengthy mandatory minimums is surely relevant to the length of imprisonment to be imposed on other counts of conviction,” she wrote.
Dean was convicted of multiple robbery and firearms counts after committing two robberies of drug dealers with his brother. His brother threatened and assaulted the victims with a gun while Dean looked for valuables.
He was also convicted under 18 U.S.C. 924(c), which imposed consecutive mandatory minimum sentences for the involvement of a firearm in the crimes. His two mandatory sentences added up to 30 years: a five-year minimum for the first offense and a 25-year minimum for the second.
Because of the severity of the mandatory firearm punishment, Dean requested a sentence of just one day for the robbery and conspiracy offenses.
The district court believed that 30 years plus one day was “more than sufficient,” but thought it lacked the authority under Section 924(c) to impose a minimum sentence for the underlying crimes.
The district court has the power to counteract the effect of the mandatory minimum, the court held.
“Sentencing courts have long enjoyed discretion in the sort of information they may consider when setting an appropriate sentence,” it said. This information includes a mandatory consecutive minimum applicable to another count, it added.
“Whether the sentence for the predicate offense is one day or one decade, a district court does not violate the terms of §924(c) so long as it imposes the mandatory minimum ‘in addition to’ the sentence for the violent or drug trafficking crime,” the court said.
The court pointed to the general sentencing statute, 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), which instructs courts to “impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with” the four identified purposes of sentencing: just punishment, deterrence, protection of the public, and rehabilitation.
The fact that the 23-year-old Dean would be 53 by the time his mandatory sentence expired is relevant, the court observed.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Johnson in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)