Dean v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: April 3, 2017
  • Case #: 15-9260
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
  • Full Text Opinion

Sentencing courts may consider the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by § 924(c) when determining the proper sentence for the predicate offense.

Petitioner was convicted of two counts of robbery and two counts of possessing and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, among other crimes, for his role in the robberies of two separate drug dealers. The latter convictions constituted violations of 18 USC § 924(c), which "criminalizes using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime, or possessing a firearm in furtherance of such an underlying crime." The mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time conviction under § 924(c) is five years in addition to the sentence imposed for the predicate crime and twenty-five years for a "second or subsequent" conviction under § 924(c). § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii) mandates that the sentence for a violation of § 924(c) run consecutively to any other sentence imposed on an individual, including the sentence for the predicate offense. Under this framework, Petitioner was to serve a minimum of thirty years for his two violations of § 924(c) in addition to the sentences imposed for all of Petitioner's other convictions. During sentencing, Petitioner argued that the trial court should consider his thirty-year minimum sentence when considering Petitioner's sentences for his other convictions, and he advocated for one-day sentences to be served concurrently for his remaining four convictions. The trial judge did not go so far as to sentence Petitioner as he so suggested, but the trial judge did sentence Petitioner to 40 months for each remaining conviction, to be served concurrently, rather than the 84-105 month Sentencing Guideline range. Petitioner appealed the sentence, alleging that the trial court erred by determining that it was unable to depart from the Sentencing Guidelines after considering the minimum sentence imposed by § 924(c), but the Eighth Circuit upheld the district court's sentence. The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that § 924(c) does not limit a sentencing court's authority under §3553(a) and similar provisions from considering the sentence imposed for violations of § 924(c) when determining the proper sentence to impose for the predicate and other individual convictions. The Supreme Court rejected the United State's argument that Congress intended to require the § 924(c) sentence to be in addition to the sentence of the predicate acts that would be imposed if no § 924(c) sentence were imposed, because Congress did not expressly create this structure in the statute as it had in other criminal statutes. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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