Legal Briefs

Harris v. United States

By Stephen P. Halbrook
June 1, 2002
William Harris, a drug dealer who carried an unconcealed semiautomatic pistol, was convicted for violating 18 USC § 924(c)(1)(A), which states that anyone who “uses or carries” a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime “shall, in addition to the punishment for such crime … if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to … not less than seven years.” Harris contested this conviction, claiming that brandishing a firearm constituted a separate statutory offense, of which he had neither been indicted nor convicted. Cato’s brief, joined by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, argues that legal history and textual analysis indicate that brandishing is indeed considered a separate (here unproven) crime and so Harris should be re-sentenced under a different statutory provision.

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