Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, September 16, 2005

Howell: Felon can't get his guns back

In U.S. v. Howell, No. 04-13343 (Sept. 15, 2005), the Court (Birch, Carnes, Fay) held that the district court correctly rejected the defendant’s Rule 41 motion for return of $140,000 seized at the time of arrest and for the return of three firearms seized during a consented search at this residence.
The Court pointed out that the $140,000 was government cash used in sting operation to purchase drugs from Howell – a transcation for which he was convicted. Accordingly, this cash "never belonged to the defendant and he never gained ownership or control of these funds." Further, the Court rejected the argument that a court, not the government, should decide to whom the cash belonged: "The money belonged to the government at all times throughout the drug transaction."
The Court also noted that because Howell was a felon, he was not entitled to return of the firearms. This was contrary to federal law. The court noted that even constructive possession of a firearm by a criminal was illegal, and therefore declined to allow the firearms to gun to a relative, to be put up for sale.