Friday, November 15, 2013

United States v. Heredia case brief

United States v. Heredia case brief summary
483 F.3d 913 (2007)

Defendant challenged the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona and asked that the appellate court overrule Jewell and hold that 21 U.S.C.S. § 841(a)(1) extended liability only to individuals who acted with actual knowledge. Defendant was convicted for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute under § 841(a)(1).

Defendant was stopped at an inland Border Patrol checkpoint while driving from Mexico to Arizona. The border agent at the scene noticed what he described as a very strong perfume scent emanating from the car. A second agent searched the trunk and found 349.2 pounds of marijuana surrounded by dryer sheets. At trial, defendant testified that on the day of her arrest she had accompanied her mother on a bus trip for a doctor's appointment. After the appointment, she borrowed her aunt's car and noticed a detergent smell in the vehicle. Defendant admitted on the stand that she suspected there might have been drugs in the car. Plaintiff government requested a deliberate ignorance instruction, which the district court gave.


  • The appellate court declined defendant's request to overrule Jewell, from which the jury instruction came. 
  • It held that district judges were owed the usual degree of deference in deciding when a deliberate ignorance instruction was warranted. 
  • It had to contain the two prongs of suspicion and deliberate avoidance, which was apparent in this action. 
  • The court held that the district judge did not abuse his discretion in issuing the requested instruction.

The appellate court affirmed the decision of the district court.

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