N.D. Iowa Notes Split Re Requisite Level of Intent Necessary to Support a Conviction Under Federal Maintaining Drug-Involved Premises Statute

Per U.S. v. Gilbert, --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2007 WL 2137811 (N.D.Iowa Jul 24, 2007) (NO. 06 CR 106 1 LRR):

The specific purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substances does not have to be Defendant's sole purpose in operating or maintaining the House. United States v. Roberts, 913 F.2d 211, 220 (5th Cir.1990); see also Verner, 53 F.3d at 296 (following Roberts). The plain language of § 856(a)(1) does not warrant such a construction, which "would eviscerate the statute." Roberts, 913 F.2d at 220. Although it is unclear whether the specific purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using any controlled substance needs to be a defendant's primary or principal purpose in operating or maintaining the place in question, FN9 such specific purpose clearly must be something more than a purpose incidental thereto. United States v. Lancaster, 968 F.2d 1250, 1254 (D.C.Cir.1992).

FN9. It appears the circuit courts of appeal are split on the requisite level of intent necessary to support a conviction under § 856(a)(1). Compare Verners, 53 F.3d at 296 ("We think it is fair to say, at least in the residential context, that the manufacture (or distribution or use) of drugs must be at least one of the primary or principal uses to which the house is put."), with United States v. Soto-Silva, 129 F.3d 340, 346 n. 4 (5th Cir.1997) ("[ Section] 856(a)(1) does not require that drug distribution be the primary purpose, but only a significant purpose." (Emphasis in original.)).


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