U.S. v. Greeno Shows How Guns Can Enhance Alabama Drug Crime Penalties

Tags: Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

When it comes to drug charges, it is not uncommon for guns to be involved as well.

Birmingham defense lawyers know that particularly for those with prior records of violent crimes or a history of drug abuse, possession of a weapon under Alabama Code Section 13A-11-72 is considered a Class C Felony. That could result in a sentence of between 2 to 20 years, depending on the circumstances – and that’s in addition to the penalties for the drug charge you’re facing.

U.S. v. Greeno was a case that had been appealed, based on the weapons enhancement penalty handed down after a Tennessee man was convicted on a drug charge. Although this case happened out-of-state, the basic principles of U.S. v. Greeno still apply here in Alabama.

Here’s what we know of this case, based on the court records:

Mark Greeno was the target of an undercover sting operation carried out by law enforcement back in May 2009. He was suspected of trafficking methamphetamine in both Tennessee and Georgia. Undercover officers reportedly conducted two controlled purchases of the drug from Greeno at his home.

After the second controlled buy, officers obtained a search warrant from a judge and three days later, conducted a search of his home, his recreational vehicle and his garage.

In the RV, officers found a revolver, which was near some drug paraphernalia. Inside the garage, detectives reportedly found a handgun in the laundry room and ammunition and a rifle in the tool shed. Buried in the ground of Greenos property, officers reportedly discovered a canister of methamphetamine and another that was tapped to his RV.

Greeno was part of a larger operation, and 23 other people were arrested along with him on federal drug charges for conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a) and (b)(1)(A), as well as other drug crimes.

A few months later, Greeno pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge as part of a plea agreement.

The court used a sentencing guideline that enhanced his penalties due to his possession of a dangerous weapon during a drug offense, which is found in 2D1.1(b)(1). This bumped up his sentence from a range of 70 to 87 months to 87 to 108 months.

At the time of his sentencing, Greeno and his defense team objected to this enhancement, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to connect the firearms to the drugs found on his property, and that the guns were strictly for his own personal use. However, the court found that the prosecutors had shown enough evidence to support their claim that the guns were connected to the drug crimes.

Greeno appealed, saying that the enhancement was a violation of his Second Amendment right to keep and also bear arms.

The appeals court looked at the law, which essentially says that the court can apply this enhancement unless it is “clear improbable that the weapon was connected to the offense.”

Ultimately, the appeals court sided with the prosecution in this case. It is always important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney to make a strong case against weapon charge enhancements. This can be particularly true for members of law enforcement or those in the military. A felony conviction can have a life-long impact on your ability to bear arms.

If you are facing Drug charges in Alabama, contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers at (205) 994-0616 or use our online contact form.

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