Dean v. United States

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Dean v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 4, 2009
Decided April 29, 2009
Full case name Christopher Michael Dean, Petitioner v. United States
Docket nos. 08-5274
Citations 556 U.S. 568 (more)
129 S. Ct. 1849
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Questions presented
Whether a law providing for a mandatory 10-year prison term for the discharge of a firearm during a violent or drug trafficking crime applied if the firearm discharged accidentally.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John G. Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · David Souter
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Case opinions
Majority Roberts, joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito
Dissent Stevens
Dissent Breyer
Laws applied
18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1)(A)(iii)

Dean v. United States, 556 U.S. 568 (2009), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court upholding a 10 year penalty for the discharge of a firearm during the commission of any violent or drug trafficking crime, against a bank robber whose gun went off accidentally.


In 2004, a bank robber, Christopher M. Dean entered a branch of AmSouth Bank in Rome, Georgia wearing a mask and waving a gun. He instructed everyone to get down, walked behind the teller counter, and took cash from the teller station with his left hand while holding his gun with his right. The gun discharged, leaving a bullet hole in the partition between two stations. Dean cursed and ran out of the bank. Witnesses later testified that he seemed surprised that the gun had gone off. No one was hurt.

Dean and an accomplice were later caught and charged with conspiracy to commit a robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1951(a), and aiding and abetting each other in using, carrying, possessing, and discharging a firearm during an armed robbery, in violation of §924(c)(1)(A)(iii) and §2. Dean admitted to committing the robbery and was convicted by a jury of the robbery and firearm counts.

Under 18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1)(A)(iii), an individual convicted for using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to any violent or drug trafficking crime, or possessing a fire-arm in furtherance of such a crime, receives a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, in addition to the punishment for the underlying crime "if the firearm is discharged."

Dean was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He appealed, contending that the discharge was accidental, and that the sentencing enhancement in §924(c)(1)(A)(iii) requires proof that the defendant intended to discharge the firearm. Deans conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the circuits.


In a 7 to 2 decision delivered by Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court held that Section 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) required no separate proof of intent. Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer filed dissenting opinions.

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