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Maintaining a Stash House is 'Conduct Related to Narcotic Drugs'

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 03, 2013 1:03 PM

Kind of a "duh" proposition there, isn't it?

Timothy Grayson was convicted of maintaining a drug house under Michigan state law in 2004. The crime punishes someone for maintaining a structure that he knows is used for keeping and selling drugs, and despite being classified a "misdemeanor," it is punishable by up to two years in prison.

In 2010, he landed into trouble again, this time for conspiracy to distribute powder and crack cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. And thanks to that 2004 indiscretion, his mandatory minimum sentence was doubled.

"Prior Felony Drug Offense" Sentencing Enhancement

Federal law penalizes repeat drug offenders by providing a sentencing enhancement when one has been convicted previously of a felony drug offense, which is itself defined by statute as "an offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year under any law of the United States or of a State or foreign country that prohibits or restricts conduct relating to narcotic drugs, marihuana, anabolic steroids, or depressant or stimulant substances."

Though the Sixth Circuit hasn't previously addressed the issue, this seems pretty clear, doesn't it? If the crime had a maximum sentence longer than a year, and it was at all related to narcotic drugs, it triggers the enhancement.

Yes, Maintaining a Stash House is a Prior Drug Offense

Grayson makes a couple of arguments here. The first invokes the state's classification of the "drug house" crime as a misdemeanor. Clever, but not clever enough, as the Supreme Court has previously held that the important inquiry is the duration of the potential punishment, not the state's irrelevant classification.

Michigan may call it a "misdemeanor," but the lengthy prison term that may be imposed makes it a "felony" for federal purposes.

He also tries to argue that "maintaining a drug house" isn't "conduct relating to narcotic drugs ..." but as the Sixth Circuit so clearly points out, nothing in the statute requires personal possession, distribution, or the personal use of drugs. Maintaining a place to store and sell drugs is, by definition, "related" to drugs.

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