U.S. Law May Punish Crimes Occurring on the High Seas

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2013 - Criminal Law

United States v. Buenaventura-Hurtado (U.S. District Court, M.D. Fla., April 12, 2013)

Plaintiff convicted of drug trafficking on the high seas challenged the constitutionality of his indictment under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (“MDLEA”). The trial court in Florida rejected the challenge as having been brought too late, but also concluded that it was without merit. Although MDLEA prosecutions for activities in the territorial waters of another country have been found unauthorized under the “Offenses” clause of the U.S. Constitution, the court concluded that the indictment was supported by the “Piracies and Felonies Clause,” which permits Congress to define and punish crimes in international waters.

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