Supreme Court Curbs Punishments For Crimes That Involve Guns

Supreme Court Curbs Punishments For Crimes That Involve Guns

Supreme Court CHANGES Punishment Laws Involving Guns

( – The mood of Congress is running in one direction on gun control, but the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is heading the other way. While a case in New York involving a state gun carry law is drawing the most interest, another case may significantly impact how prosecutors and courts seek punishments against those who commit a crime with a gun.

On Tuesday, June 21, the SCOTUS ruled 7-2 in favor of a convicted criminal. In US v. Taylor, the high court ruled that prosecutors and federal judges couldn’t add penalties to a sentence because someone other than the defendant used a firearm during a crime. The ruling is a setback for activists seeking stronger punishments to deter gun-related crimes.

Prosecutors Charge Taylor Inappropriately

On August 14, 2003, Eugen Taylor met with a marijuana distributor to deliver drugs. Instead, Taylor attempted to rob him. When the distributor resisted, Taylor’s accomplice shot and killed the drug dealer. Prosecutors charged Taylor under two laws.

Under 18 USC 924(c), it’s illegal for anyone to carry or discharge a firearm during a violent crime or possess a gun during a violent act. If convicted under this statute, the maximum sentence is five years in prison. Prosecutors say they based the 924(c) charge on Taylor’s attempted robbery under the Hobbs Act, which punishes robbery or extortion when it has an interstate commerce component.

Taylor pleaded guilty to a “crime of violence” under a residual clause in 924(c) and conspiracy to commit robbery under the Hobbs Act. A federal district court approved the guilty plea under both laws and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. That amounted to 10 years longer if Taylor only accepted the Hobbs Act robbery given that he didn’t pull the trigger, so he appealed the decision. In 2011, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with his argument.

Supreme Court Ruling Means Judicial System Can’t Pile On a Convicted Criminal

In 2015, the SCOTUS overturned parts of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), and in 2016 said appeals could be retroactive. Taylor asked the 4th Circuit Court to reconsider his case. The convicted criminal argued that the 924(c) residual clause was effectively the same as the one the high court overturned in the ACCA. He added that the Hobbs Act robbery was also not a “crime of violence.”

The 4th Circuit agreed and vacated Taylor’s conviction under 924(c).

On Tuesday, the SCOTUS agreed with the lower court. The justices ruled that attempted Hobbs Act robbery wasn’t a crime of violence and that prosecutors should not have charged Taylor under 924(c). Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Taylor should have only been “held accountable for what he actually did,” insinuating that prosecutors and the courts piled on Taylor’s charges for possessing a gun, though not using it.

The ruling was just one more example of the SCOTUS trying to bring common sense back to the law under the Second Amendment.

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