Firearm Offenses/§ 924(c) – There is sufficient evidence to prove a firearm is possessed “in furtherance” of a drug trafficking crime when the gun is easily accessible, in close proximity to drugs or currency, and the government provides some evidence that drug traffickers routinely use firearms in furtherance to protect guns and drug proceeds.
Benjamin Jenkins challenged his conviction under § 924(c)(1)(A), arguing that he legally owned the firearm for the purpose of self-protection and that there was insufficient evidence that he possessed it “in furtherance” of drug trafficking.
On appeal, the Court affirmed Jenkins’ conviction. The Court spelled out that the nexus between a firearm and a drug offense can be shown through evidence of: 1) the type of drug activity being conducted (distribution vs personal use), 2) accessibility of the firearm, 3) type of firearm, 4) whether the defendant legally owns the firearm, 5) whether the firearm is loaded, 6) the proximity of the firearm to the drugs or large amount of money, and 7) how the firearm was found.
Here, though some of the factors weighed in Jenkins’ favor, the Court held there was sufficient evidence to prove the “in furtherance of” element of § 924(c) given that the firearm was seen on Jenkins’ lap during a cocaine transaction, it was in close proximity to drugs and money, and the government presented evidence that drug traffickers tend to carry firearms in connection with drug transactions. Additionally, Jenkins’ testimony that the firearm was not related to his drug activities authorized the jury to disbelieve him and find the opposite.
Appeal from the Middle District of Florida
Per Curiam Opinion by Marcus, Branch, J. Carnes