DEAN v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
08-5274
Petitioner 
Christopher Michael Dean
Respondent 
United States
Decided By 
Advocates
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent)
Term:
Location: AmSouth Bank
Facts of the Case 

A federal district court convicted both Christopher Michael Dean and Ricardo Curtis Lopez in part for the discharge of a pistol during an armed robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii), a sentencing enhancement statute. They appealed arguing that Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) only applies to the intentional discharge of a firearm.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) does not have an intent requirement. It explained, “The mere discharge of a firearm during any crime of violence… even accidental, is subject to the sentencing enhancement”, requiring ten additional years imprisonment.

Question 

Does 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) require proof that the discharge of a firearm was intentional?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for United States, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No. The Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) does not require proof of intent to discharge a firearm in order enhance a sentence. With Chief Justice John G. Roberts writing for the majority and joined by Justices Antonin G. Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito, the Court reasoned that the grammatical structure of the statute demonstrates that there is no intent requirement in order to enhance the convicted person's sentence.

Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. He argued that criminal liability should not attach in cases where an accident causes no harm, as in Mr. Dean's case. Justice Stephen G. Breyer also dissented. He argued that 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) was sufficiently ambiguous that it should be viewed in favor of Mr. Dean, such that the statute provides "fair warning" to criminal behavior.

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DEAN v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_5274>.
DEAN v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_5274 (last visited June 19, 2014).
"DEAN v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_5274.