Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lopez-Vanegas: Drug Trafficking Outside US not Crime in US

In U.S. v. Lopez-Vanegas, No. 05-15021 (July 26, 2007), the Court reversed drug trafficking convictions, finding that mere discussions within the United States related to trafficking controlled substances outside the United States was not a crime.
The Court recognized that in prior cases, courts have given extraterritorial application to 21 U.S.C. § 841 & 846, the drug trafficking offenses. However, in those cases "defendants either possessed or conspired to possess drug substances within the United States, or intended to distribute controlled substances within the United States." Here, the evidence only showed an intent to possess outside the United States, and to distribute outside the United States. Congress showed no intent to criminalize this conduct. Accordingly, the Court vacated the convictions.