United States v. Jefferson

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 06-26-2015
  • Case #: 13-50647
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw for the Court; Circuit Judges Kozinski; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Fletcher
  • Full Text Opinion

Under 21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960 the knowledge of the exact quantity and type of substance are not elements of the offense.

George Jefferson was arrested at the United States border for importing 4.65 kilograms of a substance containing methamphetamines. Jefferson claims that he thought he was transporting marijuana and was unaware of how much he was transporting. Jefferson contends that under Alleyne v United States and Flores-Figueroa v. United States, knowledge of the exact quantity and type of drug being transported were elements under 21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960, and therefore appeals his conviction. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the necessary mens rea needed for a conviction. The panel found that the mens rea of knowingly and intentionally does not apply to all elements of § 960. The panel decided that determining which facts increase the mandatory minimum is a statute specific inquiry. Additionally, the panel also ruled the structure of § 960 was not structured like other criminal statutes. This distinction meant that the mens rea standard of §960 (a) is separate from the penalties set in § 960 (b). This distinction also meant that the rules Jefferson cited in Flores-Figueroa did not apply. Finally the panel found that there was no potential for penalization of innocent conduct. The panel reasoned that Jefferson was culpable in his actions and did not need to know the exact knowledge of his consequences that would flow from his knowingly wrongful act. AFFIRMED.

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