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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dean v. United States: Accidental discharge sufficient for 924(c) sentencing enhancement

Dean’s gun accidentally discharged during a bank robbery, but no one was harmed. Dean was convicted of conspiring to commit a bank robbery and discharging a firearm during an armed robbery. Because the firearm was "discharged" during the robbery, he was sentenced pursuant to 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) to a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term. He appealed, contending that the discharge was accidental, and that 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) requires proof that the defendant intended to discharge the firearm. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that no proof of intent is required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) requires no separate proof of intent. The 10-year mandatory minimum applies if a gun is discharged in the course of a violent or drug trafficking crime, whether on purpose or by accident.