The Criminal Defense Blog


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In Lora v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the concurrent-sentence bar in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii) does not apply to sentences under § 924(j).

This decision stems from the case of Efrain Lora, convicted of aiding and abetting a § 924(j) offense and conspiring to distribute drugs. The District Court sentenced Lora to consecutive terms for both counts, based on its interpretation that § 924(c)'s concurrent-sentence bar extended to § 924(j).  At sentencing, the District Court concluded that it lacked discretion to run the sentences for Lora's two convictions concurrently, because § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii)'s bar on concurrent sentences governs § 924(j) sentences. The District Court sentenced Lora to consecutive terms of imprisonment for the drug-distribution-conspiracy count and the § 924(j) count. Lora appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's sentence. 

Lora then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court noted that "a federal court imposing multiple prison sentences typically has discretion to run the sentences concurrently or consecutively. See 18 U.S.C. § 3584. An exception exists in § 924(c), which provides that "no term of imprisonment imposed on a person under this subsection shall run concurrently with any other term of imprisonment." § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii).

The Court considered whether § 924(c)'s bar on concurrent sentences extends to a sentence imposed under a different subsection, § 924(j)." The Supreme Court clarified that § 924(c)'s bar on concurrent sentences only applies to terms of imprisonment imposed under § 924(c) itself, not to sentences under § 924(j). This interpretation aligns with the legislative intent of Congress to allow more flexibility in sentencing under § 924(j), distinct from the mandatory consecutive sentencing under § 924(c).

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