Section 924(c) of Title 18 of the United States Code is the federal statute that criminalizes using or possession of a firearm in the course of drug trafficking or some other violent crime in Florida. The statute provides for extremely harsh penalties, often imposing sentences that are far more severe than those imposed for the underlying offense. In fact, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) is one of the few statutes in federal court where a mandatory minimum sentence applies – meaning that even if there is no previous criminal history and all mitigating factors present, the judge must still impose a certain amount of time as punishment under this law.
Weapon charges in drug trafficking and other violent crimes
The federal statute defines the word “use” as something a little more serious than simple possession. The definition includes using the weapon to assault someone, display it during a drug trafficking crime or possess it with an illegal substance. In other words, the mere presence of a firearm could be enough to trigger a charge. This means even if the defendant never brandished or fired the weapon, the court can still find them guilty of violating Section 924(c).
Potential Penalties for Violating 18 U.S.C § 924(c)
If convicted under 18 U.S.C § 924(c), Florida defendants face sentences determined by factors such as the type of firearm and whether or not they discharged it during the commission of the underlying offense. If they used a machine gun or semiautomatic weapon, the mandatory minimum sentence is 30 years.
In addition to the lengthy prison time, Section 924(c) convictions also can result in a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to 3 years of supervised release after completion of the prison term. In some cases, defendants can receive longer sentences if other additional factors are present such as a history of other related federal crimes or multiple offenses during the commission of the crime under litigation.
Ultimately, it's important for anyone accused of violating 18 U.S.C § 924(c) to understand the gravity and potential consequences of this criminal charge. Perhaps, depending on the case, one can find defenses that can help reduce, dismiss or even acquit the defendant of this crime.