The Supreme Court agreed to decide if a state can issue an extra prison term to criminals who use a gun or other weapon in the commission of a crime. The justices will review a Missouri decision that ruled the state's Armed Criminal Act unconstitutional because it permits sentencing a criminal to two prison terms for the same crime.
The double punishment occurs because, under Missouri law, a criminal could be convicted both of committing a felony in which a weapon is used and also of a firearms or dangerous-weapons violation. The same evidence is needed to prove both violations, and each carries a separate prison sentence.
The case will affect at least 75 inmates convicted under Missouri's dangerous-weapons statute. It could also set an example for other states who want to mandate stiffer penalties for criminals who use firearms or other weapons.