Breaking News:We Just Won an Old Fight

Supreme Court Upholds Gun Enhancement for Drug Crimes

In a unanimous decision Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences of two men who received mandatory minimum five-year sentencing enhancements for possessing a gun during the commission of a drug offense. Under federal law, the presence of a weapon merits the five-year sentence, which must run consecutive to any other sentences.

US Supreme Court
The case, Abbot v. US, actually consolidated two different cases. In the first, Philadelphia resident Kevin Abbott was convicted of drug trafficking, a related gun charge, and being a career criminal. He was sentenced to 15 years on the career criminal count and five years on the gun count, and the trial judge added them together to sentence him to 20 years in total.

In the second case, Wichita Falls, Texas, resident Carlos Gould pleaded guilty to a cocaine trafficking count with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and a related gun count with a five-year mandatory minimum. The trial court sentenced him to 11 years and five months on the cocaine charge, then added another five years for the gun count.

In appealing their sentences, both men pointed to a 1998 revision of the 1968 federal gun control law. In that revision, Congress added a new preface saying the gun enhancement would apply "except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is provided." Both men argued that their longer sentences on related charges should have voided the additional five years on the gun convictions.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, didn't agree, even though she conceded that ruling in their favor might make sense as a matter of policy. "We do not gainsay that Abbott and Gould project a rational, less harsh, mode of sentencing," she wrote. "But we do not think it was the mode Congress ordered."

Congress was not aiming for leniency when it revised the law in 1998, Ginsburg wrote. Nor did it mean to say that a longer mandatory minimum for related crimes voided the five-year gun sentence.

"We doubt that Congress meant a prefatory clause, added in a bill dubbed 'an act to throttle criminal use of guns,' to effect a departure so great from" the original purpose of the 1968 law," Ginsburg wrote. That purpose, she continued, was "insistence that sentencing judges impose additional punishment."

Monday's ruling is just one more indicator that the Supreme Court is not overly concerned about long, sometimes decades long, prison sentences meted out to drug offenders who possess guns, whether or not the weapon was used or displayed. The poster boy for the injustice of the gun sentencing enhancement is Weldon Angelos, a Salt Lake City pot dealer and aspiring rap music empresario who is now serving a 55-year sentence because he carried a pistol as he went about his business, even though he never shot or threatened anyone or brandished his gun. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 2006.

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!


Nothing that any politician says should be accepted solely on faith. No politician should be trusted aside from their demonstrated ability to accomplish important tasks.


has been anti-Constitution and anti-liberty since the days of FDR.  Expecting anything else from them is insane.

Supreme Court Jesters

They lost their credibility a long time ago. The supreme court has become so politicized that, you can't put an ounce of faith in their decisions.

As a matter of fact I have lost faith in all of washington to do what is right for us. They're more intent on securing their ruling class.

We need term limits on these 9 politically charged individuals selected on their politics or lack thereof. Their ,ruling on what the constitution actually says is like 9 foxes voting on who guards the henhouse

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School