News Release ~ 06/08/1998

Supreme Court Broadens Gun Law

Five Years Added to Court Officer's Marijuana Sentence

Washington, DC (June 8, 1998) -- A 5-4 decision today by the Supreme Court could affect thousands of federal drug defendants caught "carrying" a firearm, adding five years or more to their sentences even if the weapon was not immediately accessible to them. Today's decision requires a five year mandatory prison sentence for Frank Muscarello, a Louisiana court bailiff caught selling marijuana. Although sentenced to federal prison for the drug dealing, the government also sought -- and now has obtained -- an additional, consecutive five-year term because Muscarello sold marijuana while "carrying" a handgun locked in the glove compartment of his truck. The five-member majority's broad definition "ignores the plain language of the statute, the clear intention of Congress, and the multitude of laws already available to punish drug dealers," said Gerald B. Lefcourt, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which filed a friend of the court brief on Muscarello's behalf. "Adding years of additional prison time for a gun that was not used or even on the defendant's person serves no purpose other than to add to our already overflowing prisons," Lefcourt said. 

[Click Here] for the text of the Supreme Court's decision.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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