ALR: Validity, Construction, and Application of 18 U.S.C.A. § 844(h)(1)

April 10, 2014

HandcuffsProscribing Use of Fire or Explosive to Commit any Felony which May be Prosecuted in Court of United States

Section 844(h)(1) of the U.S. Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C.A. § 844(h)(1), proscribes the use of fire or an explosive to commit any felony which may be prosecuted in a court of the United States and requires, upon conviction, imposition of a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment to run consecutive to any other sentence.

Construing “use fire to commit any felony” to mean that the accused must have carried out the crime by means of fire, the court in U.S. v. Desposito, 704 F.3d 221, 81 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 589 (2d Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 2402, 185 L. Ed. 2d 1106 (2013), concluded that the defendant “used” fire to commit a bank robbery within the meaning of § 844(h)(1), where the defendant set fire to a vehicle to divert police while he robbed a bank, as the fire was an integral part of the bank robbery scheme.

The court also found that the statute gave the defendant fair warning of the illegality of his conduct. This annotation collects and discusses all cases which have addressed the validity, construction, and application of 18 U.S.C.A. § 844(h)(1).

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