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June 2, 2006

Great DC opinion on mens rea and mandatories

In a decision that may interest criminal law and Model Penal Code fans as much as sentencing folks, the D.C. Circuit ruled today in US v. Brown, No. 04-3159 (DC Cir. June 2, 2006) (available here) that the mandatory minimum ten-year federal sentence for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence should not be interpreted to be a strict liability provision.  Here's the start of the interesting and thoughtful opinion in Brown:

Congress has provided a minimum sentence of five years for any person who, in relation to any crime of violence, "uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm." 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i).  The minimum penalty increases to seven years if the firearm "is brandished," § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), and to ten if it "is discharged," § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii).  The question here is whether the accidental discharge of a weapon triggers a ten-year sentence for discharging. Phrased more formally, the question is whether an intent requirement is implicit in the discharge provision. We conclude that it is.

June 2, 2006 at 12:33 PM | Permalink


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