By: Kaitlin Price

The Fourth Circuit, in United States of America v. Moody, affirmed the District Court’s 110-month sentence imposed in accordance with Defendant’s guilty plea to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Fourth Circuit held that the District Court properly applied the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B)(2013).

The Court explained that the Sentencing Guidelines allow a court to enhance a sentence under USSG § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) when the possession of a firearm has the potential of facilitating another felony offense. This requirement for enhancement is satisfied “‘if the firearm had some purpose or effect with respect to the other offense,’” even if that purpose is protection. The commentary to the Sentencing Guidelines specifically explain that if a firearm is found within the proximity of drugs, then the enhancement requirement is satisfied because a firearm would have the potential to facilitate a drug-trafficking felony offense.

The record in United State of America v. Moody indicates that the firearm found satisfies the enhancement requirement and thus the 110-month sentence is affirmed. There was sufficient evidence of temporal proximity of possession of the firearms and the illegal activity because the evidence showed that the Defendant had purchased the gun a few days prior to when the police obtained it and the Defendant had conducted a drug sale the day before the police found the fire arm. Further, the argument that the Defendant possessed the gun for protection is not a valid defense in light of the fact the Defendant was a drug trafficker. The firearm and marijuana were located in the same closet in the Defendant’s residence. The Court concluded this fact further strengthened the nexus between the Defendant’s firearm possession and drug activity because the presence of the firearm empowered the Defendant to use his residence for drug trafficking by offering him protection.