federal gun law

SCOTUS Strikes Down Portion of Federal Gun Law as Unconstitutionally Vague

By Peek & Toland on August 30, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in U.S. v. Davis, in which the Court struck down a portion of a federal gun law as unconstitutionally vague. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(b) makes it illegal to use a firearm during a crime of violence. This section defined a crime of violence as “any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”

The penalties for violating § 924(c)(3)(b) are harsh. A first offense requires a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, and subsequent offenses require a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. These sentences also can run consecutive to any sentences that they receive for the underlying crime.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Portion of Federal Gun Law as Unconstitutionally Vague

The Davis decision is quite narrow, however, as it focuses only on one small section of the pertinent code section. Nonetheless, the high Court held that the language in this code section provides no reliable way to determine whether a crime qualifies as a “crime of violence.” The Court thus concluded that the law as written is unconstitutionally vague.

The federal government argued for an alternate reading of the provision. However, the Court declined to adopt that interpretation, concluding that doing so would be making new law rather than applying the law that Congress enacted.

Justice Gorsuch joined the liberal members of the Court in striking down the provision, just as he did last year in another decision in which the Court found a statute unconstitutionally vague. The decision drew an intense and lengthy dissent from Justice Kavanaugh.

The decision resulted in remanding the case back to the Fifth Circuit to consider the requests of the defendants in this case for a full resentencing hearing.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and explore your options. We then can help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you, based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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