Will Hunter Biden Go to Jail? Here’s What His Sentence Could Look Like

Will Hunter Biden Go to Jail? Here’s What His Sentence Could Look Like

When the judge presiding over Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial sentences him, she will have to weigh a number of unusual factors specific to his case.

Mr. Biden was convicted on Tuesday of three violations that rarely go to trial — all stemming from his failure to disclose his use of illegal drugs when he bought a gun in 2018. The charges included illegally possessing a firearm, giving a false statement in buying it, and providing that false statement to a licensed gun dealer responsible for making sure guns are sold only to properly qualified customers.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, which sets recommended sentencing guidelines, someone in Mr. Biden’s position would typically face 15 to 21 months’ imprisonment for offenses related to the unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of firearms.

From 2019 to 2023, just 48 defendants were sentenced in a similar category as Mr. Biden, and 92 percent were sentenced to serve prison time with a median prison term of 15 months, according to the commission’s data. Around 8 percent of people in that category received probation or a fine.

But judges frequently depart from the suggested guidelines when handing down a sentence and may reduce the time spent in prison in light of the particular circumstances unique to each case.

Mr. Biden, as a nonviolent first-time offender and as someone who was not accused of using the weapon in another crime, did not commit any of the aggravating factors that a judge might normally consider in setting a harsher sentence. (Examples would include making a straw purchase to transfer a gun to somebody who could not buy one legally.)

At the same time, the people who face charges similar to Mr. Biden often plead guilty and rarely go to trial, a fact that could further muddy the judge’s determination.

By a judge’s calculation, a guilty plea from a defendant can count strongly toward an acceptance of responsibility for their crimes, substantially lowering, in some cases, the so-called base offense level that informs the sentencing.

According to the commission’s data, a defendant comparable to Mr. Biden who received credit for accepting responsibility would see a suggested range of just 10 to 16 months in prison, and in practice, 30 percent of people sentenced in that category from 2019 to 2023 were sentenced to probation with no prison time.

While people who plead not guilty and take their case to a jury, as Mr. Biden did, are rarely acknowledged for taking responsibility for their actions, Mr. Biden’s case hinged largely on technical details, including the wording on the form he filled out.

His lawyers acknowledged, and Mr. Biden’s admitted in his memoir, that he was frequently using crack cocaine around the time of he bought the gun, and mainly disputed that he knowingly lied on the form he filled out to buy it. Mr. Biden’s lawyers also argued at trial that he never loaded or even handled the gun in the brief period that he owned it.

Now that a jury has convicted Mr. Biden, Judge Maryellen Noreika will consider whether a sentence in the recommended guidelines, which are devised to prevent disparities between defendants, matches her sense of Mr. Biden’s culpability.

Having secured a conviction, prosecutors could also argue in their sentencing memo that a lesser punishment, such as probation and mandatory enrollment in a firearms diversion program, is more appropriate, as they often do in less serious gun crimes.

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