United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
L. MAZE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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)).
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).
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).
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).
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
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 ...