United States v. Michael Martinez (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Federal Docket

July 21, 2020

Sentencing Guidelines/Firearm Possession Enhancement – The enhancement for unlawfully possessing a firearm under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) applies if the defendant knew, intended, or had reason to believe a gun would be used to buy drugs, and that the sale would have happened but for an intervening force.

Michael Martinez was indicted for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and pleaded “guilty without a plea agreement.” When Martinez was arrested, officers found a stolen shotgun, plastic baggies with meth, and a digital scale in his car. The district court increased Martinez’s total offense level based on the enhancement under § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B), which applies to defendants who possess a firearm “with knowledge, intent, or reason to believe that it would be used or possessed in connection with another felony offense.” Martinez objected, arguing that “he did not use or possess the shotgun in connection with another felony offense.”

Martinez received the enhancement and was sentenced to seventy-eight months’ imprisonment. He appealed his sentence, arguing against the enhancement.

The Court affirmed Martinez’s sentence, holding that “the district court did not clearly err in finding that Martinez intended to possess the shotgun for a drug trafficking offense” because “[t]here was plenty of evidence Martinez intended to distribute the dope he was planning to buy,” namely the scale, baggies, and quantity of methamphetamine recovered when Martinez was arrested. The Court held “that section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) applies to ‘would be’ and ‘potential’ felonies,” not just felonies already committed. Because there was evidence that “Martinez’s stolen shotgun ‘would be’ used to buy a pound of dope,” the Court held that there was no clear error.

The Court also held that section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) applied because “Martinez’s stolen shotgun had the potential of facilitating the pound-of-dope sale.” The Court noted that Martinez admitted his plan to sell his gun for dope, the gun was altered for sale, and Martinez had equipment to parcel the dope upon receipt. The Court held that section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) also applied because Martinez’s stolen shotgun was found in sufficiently close proximity with the drug paraphernalia to constitute a connection.

Appeal from the Middle District of Florida

Opinion by Luck, joined by W. Pryor and J. Pryor

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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