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Federal Law - Use of a Weapon in the Commission of a Crime

Mandatory Minimum Sentences - Commission of a Crime with a Firearm

Man Pointing a Gun

Experienced Attorneys for Augusta, Portland, Biddeford, Saco and Bangor, Maine

In federal court, many criminal charges bring with them mandatory, minimum sentences.  That means that the federal judge cannot, under any circumstances, reduce the penalty set by Congress for that specific crime.  At least not without a departure recommended by the government, which is commonly referred to as a 5k.1 letter.

18 U.S.C. 924(c) - Use and Type of Firearms Used

Discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime will result in a mandatory sentence enhancement.  If a weapon was used in the commission of a crime but was neither brandished or discharged, a mandatory 5 year term of imprisonment will be tacked on and run consecutively to the underlying charge.  If a firearm was used during the commission of a crime and was brandished, but not discharged, a 7-year term of imprisonment will be tacked on and run consecutively to the underlying charge.  If the weapon was discharged during the commission of the crime, an additional 10-year term of imprisonment will be ordered to run consecutively to the underlying criminal conviction.

In addition, the type of firearm will play a HUGE role in determining the final sentence.  If the weapon was a short barreled rifle, short barreled shotgun or semi-automatic rifle, an additional 10 years will be tacked onto, consecutively to the underlying crime and the use of a firearm enhancement.  If the weapon used was a machine gun, the mandatory enhancement is 30 years, which will run consecutively to the underlying crime and the aforementioned firearm use enhancements.

18 U.S.C. 924(e) - Armed Career Criminal Act

The Armed Career Criminal Act (commonly referred to as The ACCA) is a sentence enhancement, which requires a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of at least 15 years if the defendant has previously been convicted of at least three serious drug crimes or three violent felonies.  The ACCA has no time limit on when the prior convictions occurred and defines a violent felony or serious drug offense as requiring one year or more of imprisonment for the violent felony and ten years or more for a serious drug crime.

Violent felonies commonly include convictions for burglary, robbery, arson, extortion, aggravated assault or any other crime considered a felony that has an element of force or threat of force.  

Predicate Offenses

When being charged under the ACCA, predicate offenses are determined as distinct and separate offenses.  That means that if you committed a burglary and an aggravated assault and kidnapping, all of which were perpetrated against the same victim, as part of a single criminal transaction, only a single one of those crimes can be used to qualify you under ACCA as predicate offenses.  The crimes cannot be part of a single transaction.  Using the previous example of burglary, aggravated assault and kidnapping; if each crime occurred on a separate date, all 3 convictions can be used for the ACCA minimum sentence enhancement scheme.

If you've been charged with a federal criminal charge where a firearm is alleged, you'll need a defense attorney experienced in dealing with federal firearm cases. Contact WTB Law at (207) 571-8146 for a free consultation.  

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