Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Brown: Mere omission of an element of an offense does not render indictment jurisdictionally defective

In U.S. v. Brown, No. 13-10023 (May 28, 2014), the Court rejected the argument of a defendant who pled guilty to receiving counterfeit money orders that her conviction was invalid because the indictment failed to allege the “knowingly” mens rea element of the offense. The Court rejected the argument that the failure of an indictment to allege an essential element of an offense was a non-waivable, jurisdictional defect. The Court explained that an indictment is jurisdictionally defective only when, even accepting the factual allegations of the indictment as true, these allegations fail to state a violation of a statute. When this occurs, the indictment fails to allege a criminal offense against the laws of the United States. But an indictment’s mere omission of an element of an offense does not fail to invoke the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction.