Thursday, December 15, 2011

Command While Using Gun Supports "Physical Restraint" Enhancement

US v. Dimache: Dimache pleaded guilty to armed bank robbery. He and an accomplice robbed a bank in South Carolina, during which Dimache brandished a gun, using it first to direct a teller to give money to his accomplice and then to force other tellers to get down on the floor. In the PSR, the probation officer recommended a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B3.1(b)(4)(B) for physical restraint of a person to facilitate the offense. In this case, the basis for the enhancement was Dimache using the gun as a threat to force the tellers to the ground. Dimache objected, but the district court imposed the enhancement. The district court sentenced him to 90 months in prison.

On appeal, Dimache argued that the two-level enhancement should not apply in his case because merely pointing a gun at some one and ordering them to move does not constitute "physical restraint." The court rejected that argument. It noted that the "essential nature" of the conduct justifying the enhancement is the "deprivation of a person's 'freedom of physical movement.'" While it was "not an easy question to answer" whether the presence of a gun can lead to physical restraint, the court has previously read the enhancement to apply broadly. Therefore, the use of the gun to restrict the tellers' movements supported imposition of the enhancement.

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