This case decided what constitutes indigence under 18 U.S.C. § 3014, which requires courts to “assess an amount of $5,000 on any non-indigent person” convicted of certain crimes. Because the statute does not define “non-indigent,” the opinion examined the term’s ordinary meaning using dictionary definitions of “indigent” and “indigency” roughly contemporaneous with the statute’s enactment. From these, the panel inferred that an indigent person is both (1) impoverished now and (2) lacks means to escape poverty. The court found further confirmation of this meaning in statutory structure, observing that § 3014(g) continues the assessment obligation for 20 years after judgment, indicating that courts should look beyond defendants’ ability to pay at time of sentencing when assessing indigency. Thus, the panel affirmed the district court, which had considered the defendant’s earning potential and concluded he was a non-indigent person.

Judge Merritt concurred in part and dissented in part, noting that the burden of showing indigency rests on the defendant.