Are There Mandatory Minimums for Federal Firearm Crimes?

A federal firearms conviction can carry harsh penalties, including imprisonment and/or fines. In some cases, a court must impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. In 2019, the U.S. Sentencing Commission received 8,481 reports of federal gun crimes. Of those, 10.7% carried a mandatory minimum penalty.

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The two statutes that most commonly apply to federal firearms cases and allow for mandatory minimums to be imposed are 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). We'll explore these two laws in this blog, expand on the number of years a person must spend in prison upon a conviction, and what options exist for relief from the mandatory minimums.

Firearms in Connection with Drug or Violent Crimes

Section 924(c) of Title 18 of the United States Code concerns the use of a gun to further a drug or violent crime. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in 2019, about 7.6% of offenses involving guns were prosecuted under this statute.

Under section 924(c), if a person is convicted of having or using a gun while committing a drug or violent offense, the court must impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment in addition to and consecutively to the prison sentence of the underlying crime. That means the individual will receive two terms of imprisonment that run one right after the other as opposed to at the same time as each other.

The mandatory minimums for a conviction under this section are as follows:

  • 5 years for having a firearm during the offense
  • 7 years for brandishing a gun during the offense
  • 10 years for discharging a firearm or for having a short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or semiautomatic assault weapon during the offense
  • 30 years for having a machine gun or destructive device, or a firearm with a silencer or muffler during the offense
  • 25 years for a second or subsequent conviction under this section
  • Life for a second or subsequent conviction under this section when the offense involved a machine gun or destructive device or a firearm with a silencer or muffler during the offense

Data from the U.S. Sentencing commission provides that of those convicted under section 924(c), 66.5% were subject to a 5-year mandatory minimum, 19.1% were subject to a 7-year mandatory minimum, and 14.5 were subject to a 10-year or longer mandatory minimum.

Armed Career Criminal Act and Firearm Mandatory Minimums

The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) provides that a person with three or more qualifying violent felony or drug crime convictions is subject to a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

The statute applies to persons alleged to have violated 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), which concerns possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reports that 67.6% of federal gun crimes fall under this category.

Persons prohibited from certain conduct pertaining to firearms include:

  • Convicted felons
  • Fugitives from justice
  • Drug users or addicts
  • Those adjudicated as mentally defective
  • Those unlawfully in the U.S.
  • Dishonorably discharged members of the Armed Forces
  • U.S. citizens who have renounced their citizenship
  • Those subject to a domestic violence protection order
  • Those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense

Any of the above individuals who possess, ship or transport, or receive a firearm or ammunition that has affected interstate or foreign commerce must be imprisoned for at least 15 years.

Relief from Firearm Mandatory Minimum Sentences

If a person is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence for a federal gun crime, they may be eligible for relief from such a sanction under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). This statute provides that if a person substantially assists the government with the investigation or prosecution of a crime, the court can impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum. It is up to the prosecutor to file a motion for relief under Section 3553(e).

If you or a loved one has been accused of a federal gun crime in Iowa City, contactKeegan, Tindal & Jaeger at (319) 499-5524. We are ready to stand up for you.