Must a Criminal Defendant Know His Weapon Is a Machine-Gun for Mandatory Sentence to Apply?

Today, in United States v. Burwell, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sitting en banc, divided 5-3 over whether the federal mandatory sentnce of thirty years for possessing a machine gun when committing a crime of violence has a mens rea requirement. Judge Brown, writing for the Court, concluded the answer is “no,” joined by Chief Judge Sentelle, and Judges Henderson, Griffith and Garland. Chief Judge Sentelle and Judge Henderson also wrote concurring opinions, each suggesting the case was not worthy of en banc review. Judges Rogers and Kavanaugh (joined by Judge Tatel) dissented.

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