Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
When an act violates more than one criminal statute, the government may prosecute under either so long as it does not discriminate against any class of defendants. Whether to prosecute and what charge to file or bring before a grand jury are decisions that generally rest in the prosecutor's discretion, subject to constitutional restraints.
A federal criminal defendant was convicted of violating 18 USCS 922(h), which forbids a previously convicted felon from receiving a firearm that has traveled in interstate commerce. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois sentenced the defendant under 18 USCS 924(a) to five years' imprisonment, the maximum term authorized for a violation of 922(h). The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction but remanded for resentencing, ruling that insofar as the substantive elements of 922(h) and 18 USCS Appx 1202(a) are identical as applied to a convicted felon who unlawfully receives a firearm, no more than the 2-year maximum sentence provided by 1202(a) could be imposed.
Was the sentencing of defendant under 18 USCS 924(c) for violation of 18 USCS 922(h), despite fact that conduct also constituted violation of 18 USCS Appx 1202(a) punishable by lesser term of imprisonment, proper?
The Court reversed the judgment of the lower court because it determined that nothing in the language, structure, or legislative history of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 suggested that because of the overlap, a defendant convicted under 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(h) could be imprisoned for no more than the maximum term specified in 18 U.S.C.S. App. § 1202(a). The Court determined that each substantive statute, in conjunction with its own sentencing provision, operated independently of the other. On their faces, the statutes established that 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(a) alone delimited the appropriate punishment for violations of 18 U.S.C.S.§ 922(h). The Court found that respondent unquestionably violated § 922(h), and 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(a) unquestionably permitted five years' imprisonment for such a violation.