United States v. Perez

The defendant, who was known as Toast, pleaded guilty to firearms and drugs offenses arising from, among other things, selling guns to an undercover police officer. The Sentencing Guidelines recommended between 84 and 105 months’ imprisonment. But at the Government’s urging, the District Court applied a sentencing enhancement that brought the recommended prison time up to 121 to 151 months. The District Court applied the enhancement because the undercover officer saw Toast had guns and drugs together in the same room. The Third Circuit interpreted Guideline § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) and Commentary Note 14(B), then vacated the sentence. The Court ruled that the text of Section 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) is ambiguous. The Court next held that Note 14(B) creates a rebuttable presumption that the enhancement should apply for a drug-trafficking offense when a firearm is found near drugs or related items. Under the Court’s interpretation, “a court may presume that a firearm is used or possessed in connection with a drug-trafficking offense if the firearm is found close to drugs or related items. But because the presumption is rebuttable, a defendant may present evidence that the firearm had no relationship to drug-related activities (i.e., that the presence of the firearm was mere accident or coincidence) and thus did not have the potential to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense.” The primary inquiry under § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) must be whether there is a relationship between the firearm and the defendant’s drug trafficking offense. Because Toast did not have the opportunity to rebut the presumption, the Court vacated his sentence.

Perez