Wednesday, February 04, 2015

One Shot, Only One 924(c) Violation

U.S. v. Rentz, 2015 WL 430918 (2/3/2015) (en banc) (UT)(published) (slip opinion here): After Rentz fired a single gunshot that wounded one victim and killed another, he was charged with two crimes of violence—assault and murder—and two counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Rentz moved to dismiss the second § 924(c) count. The district court granted his motion, holding that multiple § 924(c) charges arising from a single use of a firearm are impermissible. The government appealed the pre-trial dismissal of the second § 924(c) count. A 10th circuit panel reversed the district court order. The court then granted Rentz’s request for an en banc rehearing to determine whether he can be charged with two § 924(c) offenses for using a gun only once. Writing for the majority, Judge Gorsuch said the question presented was whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, § 924(c)(1)(A) authorizes multiple charges when the parties admit there’s only a single use, carry, or possession. The opinion is quite detailed with in-depth discussions of grammar, units of prosecution, legislative history and the rule of lenity. Ultimately, the court decided that when a case involves only one use, carry or possession of a firearm, the government may "seek and obtain no more than one § 924(c)(1)(A) conviction."