(CN) – A man accused of two misdemeanors for allegedly arranging to buy 2 grams of cocaine over the phone cannot be charged with “facilitating” the dealer’s felonies, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The court unanimously reversed a ruling affirming the six felony convictions of Salman Khade Abuelhawa, who twice arranged to buy a single gram of cocaine from a man named Mohammed Said over the phone. FBI agents had wiretapped Said’s phone.
Drug purchases are typically misdemeanors, while drug sales are felonies.
However, the government charged Abuelhawa with six felonies under the Controlled Substances Act, claiming he “facilitated” felony drug distribution.
The jury convicted him on all six counts, and the 4th Circuit affirmed.
The U.S. Supreme Court took the case to resolve whether the defendant’s use of the phone to buy cocaine counted as “facilitation” of a felony under the Act.
“The answer is no,” Souter stated, plainly.
“Where a transaction like a sale necessarily presupposes two parties with specific roles, it would be odd to speak of one party as facilitating the conduct of the other,” Souter wrote.
“A buyer does not just make a sale easier; he makes the sale possible. No buyer, no sale; the buyer’s part is already implied by the term ‘sale,’ and the word ‘facilitate adds nothing.”
The court reversed the 4th Circuit’s ruling and remanded.