What Happens If I’m Accused of Committing Another Crime While on Pretrial Release?
When a person charged with a crime is granted pretrial release, they are usually subject to a number of terms and conditions. For example, the defendant must agree to make all required court appearances. They may also have to submit to electronic monitoring to ensure they do not leave the state. And of course, the defendant cannot commit any other crimes while awaiting trial on the original charge.
In the federal court system, a defendant who commits a felony offense while on pretrial release does not simply face revocation of their bail. Under 18 U.S.C. 3147, they also face up to an additional 10 years in prison if convicted of the underlying felony. For instance, say a defendant is convicted of a federal drug crime, such as heroin trafficking, and receives a five-year prison sentence. If that same defendant committed another crime while on pretrial release, the prosecution could ask for an additional 10 years, for a total of 15 years.
11th Circuit Upholds 25-Year Sentence of Alabama Man Who Killed Police Officer
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has federal appellate jurisdiction over Florida, recently explained that if application of the Section 3147 enhancement would lead to a sentence that is greater than the maximum penalty for the original crime, then the “issue of whether the person committed a felony offense while on pretrial release must be submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The 11th Circuit discussed this subject in connection with an Alabama case, United States v. Perez, involving a defendant indicted for possession of a stolen firearm. While on pretrial release, prosecutors alleged the defendant “faked his own kidnapping.” Police subsequently located the defendant at a hotel in Mobile, Alabama. When an officer tried to arrest the defendant, he pulled out a firearm and fatally shot the officer. The defendant then ran into nearby woods but was later apprehended.
Federal prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with receiving a firearm while under indictment. A jury convicted the defendant of both this charge and the original charge for possession of a stolen firearm. The maximum consecutive sentence for both charges is 15 years in prison. But adding the full 10-year enhancement under Section 3147, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 25 years in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court could not use Section 3147 to sentence him to more than the maximum consecutive sentence for the underlying offenses. The 11th Circuit disagreed. It noted the text of Section 3147 made it clear the 10-year enhancement was in addition to “any other sentence of imprisonment” rather than part of the original statutory maximum.
But the Court also held that if the application of Section 3147 “takes the total sentence beyond the statutory maximum for the underlying offense,” then the jury must decide whether the state has proven that the defendant committed the pretrial release crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That did not help the defendant in this particular case, however, as “no reasonable jury” could have convicted him of the second firearms charge “without also finding that he committed this crime while on pretrial release.”
Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today
Federal weapons charges are a serious matter. That is why if you are facing such allegations it is critical to work with an experienced Orlando gun and weapon crime lawyer. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, P.A., today at (407) 661-1009 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.