In the recent case of United States of America v. Bryan Vinales (22-331-cr, 2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2023), the Second Circuit considered whether the district judge erred in imposing a two-level sentencing enhancement under § 2D1.1(b)(12) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which is applied when a defendant "maintains a premises for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance." The primary issue was whether this enhancement is applicable to defendants who use their personal residence for drug distribution or manufacturing.
Defendant was investigated by the DEA for involvement in a heroin trafficking ring operating from an apartment on Willow Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, where defendant had formerly resided. Through a series of controlled drug buys and surveillance, the DEA established a connection between drug sales and the Willow Street premises. Upon his arrest, defendant admitted to selling heroin and crack cocaine from the premises, though he had moved out prior to his arrest.
At sentencing, defendant challenged application of a two-level enhancement under § 2D1.1(b)(12). The Probation Office advocated for the enhancement, which would result in a Guidelines range of 70 to 87 months. However, defendant and the Government argued against the enhancement, stating that defendant had lived at the premises and no drug packaging or manufacturing had occurred there. The district court applied the enhancement, determining that the Guidelines range was 70 to 87 months, but eventually imposed a non-Guidelines sentence of 60 months' imprisonment.
On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's application of the drug-distribution premises enhancement. The Second Circuit, after a thorough analysis, concluded that the commentary to § 2D1.1(b)(12) supported the enhancement under the given facts. The Court found that the enhancement was correctly applied given defendant continued to use the Willow Street premises for drug sales even after moving out.