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SIMPSON V. UNITED STATES, 435 U. S. 6 (1978)

U.S. Supreme Court

Simpson v. United States, 435 U.S. 6 (1978)

Simpson v. United States

No. 76-5761

Argued November 1, 1977

Decided February 28, 1978*

435 U.S. 6


The punishment for bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) may be enhanced under § 2113(d) when the robbery is committed "by the use of a dangerous weapon or device." Title 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) provides that whoever "uses a firearm to commit any felony for which he may be prosecuted in a court of the United States," shall be subject to a penalty in addition to the punishment provided for the commission of such felony. Petitioners were convicted of two separate aggravated bank robberies and of using firearms to commit the robberies, in violation of §§ 2113(a) and (d) and 924(c), and were sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment on the robbery and firearms counts, the District Court rejecting their contention that the imposition of the cumulative penalties for the two crimes was impermissible because the § 2113(d) charges merged with the firearms offenses for purposes of sentencing. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: In a prosecution growing out of a single transaction of bank robbery with firearms, a defendant may not be sentenced under both § 2113(d) and § 924(c). This construction of those provisions is supported not only by § 924(c)'s legislative history, but also by the established rules of statutory construction that "ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity," United States v. Bass, 404 U. S. 336, 404 U. S. 347; Rewis v. United States, 401 U. S. 808, 401 U. S. 812, and that precedence should be given to the terms of the more specific statute where a general statute and a specific statute speak to the same concern, even if the general provision was enacted later. Pp. 435 U. S. 10-16.

542 F.2d 1177, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post p. 435 U. S. 16.

Page 435 U. S. 7

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