Criminal Statutes Found To Have Extraterritorial Application Because They Were In Furtherance Of The US Government’s Interest In Self-Protection

The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2017 - White Collar Criminal Law/Money Laundering

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US v. Alahmedalabdaloklah, US District Court for the District of Arizona, July 7, 2017

Alahmedalabdaloklah was indicted for conduct that occurred in Iraq and sought to dismiss various counts of the indictment against him on grounds that the criminal statutes in question had no extraterritorial applicability.

The Court began by reviewing the test for determining whether a statute had extraterritorial application. In the first instance, a statute must demonstrate a “clear, affirmative indication that it applies extraterritorially” for that result to attach. An exception exists for criminal statutes in which the US Government exercises its right to “defend itself,” in which case extraterritorial application will be inferred as necessary to cover relevant conduct wherever committed.

Alahmedalabdaloklah first challenged the count charging him with conspiracy to maliciously damage or destroy US government property by means of an explosive, in violation of 18 USC 844(f)(1) and (2), and (n). By its own terms, the statutory language could be satisfied by conduct in the US and gave no specific indication of extraterritorial applicability. But the Court found the exception for governmental self-protection to apply, and found the claimed violation properly within the scope of the statute.

Other counts of the indictment charged possession of a destructive device and conspiracy to possess a destructive device in furtherance of two crimes of violence, in violation of subsections of 18 USC 924. As discussed above, one of the crimes of violence had been found by the Court to have extraterritorial applicability. The second alleged was 18 U.S.C. 2332a(a)(1) and (3), which criminalizes conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction “against a national of the United States while such national is outside” the US and “against any property that is owned, leased or used by the US, “whether the property is within or outside” the country. The Court found this statute to apply directly to conduct outside the US Because both of the “crimes of violence” on which the violation of Section 924 was based applied to conduct outside the US, the Court found that Section 924, as applied to Alahmedalabdaloklah, had the same worldwide geographic scope.

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