While most non-lawyers are aware that a person's prior criminal history can impact their sentencing for future crimes, few people are aware of how drastic the sentences can be for convicted felons who continue to possess firearms. One such example of an enhanced punishment due to one's past deeds is contained in the Armed Career Criminal laws found at 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) and in the United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.4.
Earlier today, Tennessee resident Bradlee Thomas was sentenced to a 15-year sentence for being an armed career criminal. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Thomas pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Due to Thomas' prior criminal history, which included convictions for burglary, he was exposed to enhanced punishment as an armed career offender.
18 U.S.C. § 924(e) provides:
In the case of a person who violates section 922 (g) of this title and has three previous convictions by any court referred to in section 922 (g)(1) of this title for a violent felony or a serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than fifteen years...
Further, the Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.4 will typically provide a beginning base level of 33 or 34. Based on a person's criminal history, the Sentencing Guidelines range will be anywhere from 188-327 months. Of course, a defendant may be able to lower his/her guideline level through such avenues as Acceptance of Responsibility and providing "substantial assistance" to the Government. Regardless of these potential sentencing reductions, a defendant with certain classes of prior felonies who is found in possession of a firearm is looking at a potential lengthy prison sentence.