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Additional Time in Prison for Firing Weapon During Commission of Crimes

Date Posted to Site: 05/28/2009

#47) Dean v. United States (decided April 29, 2009)

7-2. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the opinion in favor of the United States. Federal law allows for convicted felons to serve an additional ten years behind bars if they fire a gun during the commission of a crime. This ruling says that law still applies even if there was no intent to fire the weapon.

In 2004, Christopher Dean robbed $3,642 from a Georgia bank. While inside the bank his gun accidentally discharged. No one was hurt and witnesses say Dean was himself shocked when the gun went offclearly demonstrating he lacked the intent to fire the weapon. Police officers soon arrested Dean and he was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to 8 1/3 years behind bars. But he was also given an additional ten year term in prison for firing the gun during the bank robbery. This opinion affirms that additional sentence.

Chief Justice Roberts offered some sage advice. "Those criminals wishing to avoid the penalty for an inadvertent discharge can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violent or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home, orbest yetavoid committing the felony in the first place."

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