The Volokh Conspiracy

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Is Ownership of Guns Itself Evidence of Drug Dealing?


At a traffic stop for overly tinted windows, a police officer smelled marijuana, and indeed found marijuana in the car. He also found a lot of cash, which was seized, on the theory that it was likely to be drug proceeds. No, said Chief Judge Martin Reidinger (W.D.N.C.) in U.S. v. Approximately $13,205.54 in U.S. Currency Seized from Rahkim Franklin: "[T]he totality of the evidence presented by the Government fails to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant Currency seized during the August 21, 2018 traffic stop was proceeds traceable to an exchange for controlled substances within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6)." (Apparently the cash had been intended to be a down payment on a house.) And in the process, Chief Judge Reidinger noted:

In a footnote, the Government points out that Mr. Franklin also owns several firearms, which the Government contends "have long been recognized as being 'tools of the drug trade.'" [Doc. 87 at 6 n.2 (quoting in part United States v. Ward, 171 F.3d 188, 195 (4th Cir. 1999)]. It is undisputed, however, that Mr. Franklin owned these firearms legally; he is not a convicted felon or an otherwise prohibited person. Further, none of Mr. Franklin's firearms were subject to forfeiture by the Government.

The Government has not presented any evidence from which this Court could reasonably conclude that these firearms were owned for the purpose of furthering any criminal activity. For the Government to suggest that a citizen's mere possession of firearms implicates that person in illicit drug trafficking is to strain credulity. The Government's argument presents some Second Amendment considerations that counsel has apparently not considered.

Congratulations to James W. Kilbourne, Jr. and Jesse M. Swords of Allen Stahl & Kilbourne, PLLC on the victory.