Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The text of 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) provides that a defendant shall be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years if a firearm is discharged. It does not require that the discharge be done knowingly or intentionally, or otherwise contain words of limitation.
Defendant Christopher Michael Dean admitted that he took part in a bank robbery during which a gun was discharged. He was convicted under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1951(a) of conspiring to commit a robbery and under 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 2 and 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) of aiding and abetting the use, carrying, possession, and discharge of a firearm during an armed robbery. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the firearm count. On appeal, defendant argued that he should not have been subject to the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence under § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) because the gun discharged accidentally. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.
In order to be subject to the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, did § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) require proof that the defendant intended to discharge the firearm?
The Supreme Court held that § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii), which applied if a firearm was discharged during a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, did not contain a requirement that discharge of the firearm was intended. The language and structure of the statute suggested that § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) was not limited to the intentional discharge of a firearm; intent requirements applicable to other provisions of the statute did not extend to § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). Even if discharge of the gun was accidental, that did not mean that defendant was blameless; the sentencing enhancement accounted for the risk of harm resulting from the manner in which the crime was carried out, for which defendant was responsible. There was insufficient ambiguity in the statute to invoke the rule of lenity.