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United States v. Glock Model 17 9mm Pistol

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

November 13, 2019

GLOCK MODEL 17 9mm PISTOL, SERIAL NO. TTA620, et al., Defendants.



         The United States of America (the “Government”) seeks summary judgment against 14 Defendant Firearms that belong to Claimant Gerald Talley (“Talley”). Doc. 56. There is no genuine, material dispute that Talley knowingly possessed the Defendant Firearms, that the Defendant Firearms were involved in interstate commerce, or that Talley was an unlawful user of a controlled substance at the time he possessed the firearms. Accordingly, the Government is entitled to summary judgment and the Defendant Firearms are subject to civil forfeiture.


         This is a civil forfeiture action brought by the Government against 14 firearms possessed by Gerald Talley. On March 19, 2017, Talley was driving from Atlanta, GA to Birmingham, AL. Along the way, a Heflin, AL police officer stopped Talley for following another motorist too closely. Talley told the officer that there were no guns in his vehicle. At that time, the officer asked Talley to exit his vehicle and told Talley that he smelled marijuana. Talley stated that he had not smoked marijuana that morning and that there was no marijuana in his vehicle.

         The officer then searched Talley's vehicle. During his search, the officer found a container labeled “G. Talley, 1.55 g, ” which contained between a half-gram and gram of marijuana. The officer also found 14 firearms in the trunk of the vehicle, contained in black plastic garbage bags and in a backpack. Talley was read his Miranda warnings and acknowledged that he understood his Miranda rights. The officer took custody of the 14 firearms and arrested Talley for possessing the marijuana. On February 2, 2018, Talley pleaded guilty to second-degree possession of marijuana in the Circuit Court of Cleburne County.

         The Government seeks to forfeit the 14 Defendant Firearms pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(d), which authorizes the forfeiture of property used in a knowing violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Relevant here, Section 922(g)(3) states that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person … who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance … to ship or transport in interstate of foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.”


         This Court evaluates the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party can demonstrate that a fact is not under genuine dispute by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists “if the nonmoving party has produced evidence such that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict in its favor.” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Rule 56 also provides that “[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may also consider other materials in the record.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(3). The trial judge should not weigh the evidence but determine whether there are any genuine issues of fact that should be resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, trial courts must give deference to the non-moving party by “view[ing] the materials presented and all factual inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 789 F.3d 1206, 1213-14 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). However, “unsubstantiated assertions alone are not enough to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Rollins v. TechSouth, Inc., 833 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1987). Conclusory allegations and “mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not suffice to overcome a motion for summary judgment.” Melton v. Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1219 (11th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (quoting Young v. City of Palm Bay, Fla., 358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004)). Although the trial courts must use caution when granting motions for summary judgment, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).

         The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (“CAFRA”, 18 U.S.C. §§ 981-987) provides that in civil forfeiture summary judgment cases, the government must “establish, by a preponderance of the evidence[] that the property is subject to forfeiture.” 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(1). The government must also show “a substantial connection” between the firearms and Talley's criminal offense of possessing them while an illegal drug user. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(3).


         Title 18, Section 922(g)(3) makes it illegal for an “unlawful user or [anyone who is] addicted to any controlled substance” to “transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce any firearm or ammunition.” For the purposes of this statute, controlled substances include marijuana. See 21 U.S.C. § 802(6); 21 U.S.C. 812(c). Accordingly, to seize Talley's firearms, the Government must prove three things: (1) that Talley was an unlawful user of a controlled substance (the “unlawful user element”); (2) that Talley knowingly possessed firearms while he was an unlawful user (the “knowing possession element”); and (3) the possession of the firearms was in or affecting interstate of foreign commerce (the “interstate commerce element”).

         Talley concedes that the Government would prove the “knowing possession” and “interstate commerce” elements at trial. (Doc. 60 at 3-4). The Court agrees; a review of the undisputed evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact that Talley knew that he possessed the 14 Defendant Firearms (i.e. the knowing possession element) when he drove them between Georgia and Alabama (i.e. the interstate commerce element). See, e.g. Docs. 56-2 at 204 (Talley's response to the Government's request for admission: “The claimant, Gerald Talley, admits he knowingly possessed Defendant Firearms at time of arrest in Cleburne Co., Alabama, on March 19 2017”); 60 at 3 ...

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