Tuesday, April 24, 2012

United States v. Romero-Galue case brief, 757 F.2d 1147 (11th Cir. 1985)

United States v. Romero-Galue, 757 F.2d 1147 (11th Cir. 1985)

-       Issue: whether Congress, in enacting Section 955(a)(c) (which makes it a crime for all vessels within US waters to knowingly or intentionally possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it), intended to reach possession of marijuana by foreigners aboard a foreign vessel on the high seas
-       The court finds that although the ship is outside US waters per Section 955 (a)(c), if there is a treaty between the US and the country concerned which allows the US to enforce jurisdiction on a foreign ship, that treaty will define customs waters rather than Section 955(a)(c)
  • Thus, whether such a treaty exists between the US and Panama (here, the ship was Panamanian) is a matter for the lower court
-       In dicta, the court addresses the protective principle:
  • In dicta, the court says that the US could still exercise jurisdiction over the Panamanian ship even if there is no treaty because the protective principle would allow the US to prosecute foreign nationals on foreign vessels on the high seas for possession of narcotics (and in some way inherently harmed the US)
  • “The protective principle permits a nation to assert jurisdiction over a person whose conduct outside the nation’s territory threatens the nation’s security or could potentially interfere with the operation of its governmental functions.”

Note: Orentlicher says that the US overstepped its jurisdictional boundaries when it tried to regulate foreign corporations under the protective principle (see Sensor case)

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