Fifth Circuit - Drug Offenses

United States v. Guidry, 960 F.3d 676 (5th Cir. 2020). Section 2D1.1(b)(1)’s 2-level weapon enhancement requires the government to prove a temporal and special relationship between the weapon, the drug trafficking activity, and the defendant; and such an enhancement applies where the gun and drugs were both within the defendant’s reach and where the defendant carried a bullet that had been cycled through the gun’s chamber.

United States v. Leontartis, 977 F.3d 447 (5th Cir. 2020). When calculating the sentencing guidelines the court is not bound by the jury’s finding that the defendant was accountable for 50 grams or less of methamphetamine. It is the sentencing court’s duty to apply and calculate the sentencing guidelines under the preponderance of the evidence standard.

United States v. Barry, 978 F.3d 214 (5th Cir. 2020). The court did not clearly err when it converted $14,658 to a drug quantity to determine a base offense level under §2D1.1. The court may consider estimates of drug quantity, and if the government can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the money came from drug proceeds, converting money into drug quantity is permitted.

United States v. Pike, 979 F.3d 364 (5th Cir. 2020). The court did not clearly err in denying a mitigating role adjustment under §3B1.2. While the defendant did not plan or organize the drug-trafficking conspiracy, he pooled his money with others to purchase the drug supply, negotiated sales, chose customers, and used proceeds for his own business. The court did not err in not articulating a factual basis for denying the adjustment because the defendant did not ask for one.

United States v. Galicia, 983 F.3d 842 (5th Cir. 2020). The 2-level enhancement at §2D1.1(b)(12) for maintaining a drug premises applied because the defendant temporarily stored marijuana in his home’s garage on three occasions.

United States v. Hudgens, 4 F.4th 352 (5th Cir. 2021). In a drug distribution case, an upward variance from a range of 97 to 121 months’ imprisonment to 240 months’ imprisonment was not substantively unreasonable. While the government could not prove the “but-for causation” required for the enhanced penalty, nothing prohibited the court from considering that the defendant’s girlfriend died after ingesting drugs the defendant gave her.

United States v. Martinez, --F.4th--, 2021 WL 3825354 (5th Cir. 2021). The court clearly erred in treating all cash seized during a search as cocaine proceeds. There were too many possible alternative sources for the income, including lawful proceeds from tobacco sales and proceeds from the sale of other drugs.

Training Topic: