Watson v. United States
Watson v. United States, 76 U.S.L.W. 4020 (Dec. 10, 2007) was a case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court which held that a defendant who trades his drugs for a gun does not "use" a firearm "during and in relation to ... [a] drug trafficking crime" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A).
Justice David Souter wrote the opinion for the Court, and there were no dissents.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a separate concurrence, noting how the Court was contradicting its prior holding in Smith v. United States, 508 U.S. 223 (1993), in which the Court held that trading a gun for drugs did constitute a "use" of a firearm in a drug trafficking offense. She would have overruled that precedent:
- Accordingly, I would overrule Smith, and thereby render our precedent both coherent and consistent with normal usage. Cf. Henslee v. Union Planters Nat. Bank & Trust Co., 335 U.S. 595, 600, 69 S. Ct. 290, 93 L. Ed. 259, 1949-1 C.B. 223 (1949) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting) ("Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.").
Analysis of Petition for Cert
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) criminalizes the "use" of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense and imposes a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least five years' imprisonment. In Bailey v. United States, 516 U.S. 137 (1995), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "use" of a firearm under § 924(c) means "active employment."
The question presented in this petition for certiorari is:
- Whether mere receipt of an unloaded firearm as payment for drugs constitutes "use" of the firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(l)(A) and this Court's decision in Bailey.