Court of Appeals Concludes That Claim of Improper Extraterritorial Application of Criminal Statute Goes to the Merits of the Charge, Not the Court’s Jurisdiction to Consider it

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2014 - White Collar Criminal | April.29.2014

United States v. Yousef, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, April 29, 2014

Yousef was indicted on a criminal charge of providing support to a terrorist organization and plead guilty. He subsequently argued that he should be freed because the indictment failed to allege any relationship between his conduct and the U.S., in which case the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution would preclude his prosecution. Because a guilty plea waives all but jurisdictional objections, the Court of Appeals in New York was required to determine whether the alleged defect in the indictment would have impacted the trial court’s jurisdiction to hear the case or merely created a ground for dismissing the charges on the merits. Reviewing changing law in the area that expanded the concept of subject matter jurisdiction in this context, the Court of Appeals concluded that a claim that a criminal statute was given an improper extraterritorial application goes to the merits of a charge, not whether the court has jurisdiction to hear it, and thus rejected Yousef’s argument.

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