Drugs on a Plane: Sherman Plano Federal Court International Jurisdiction (Part One)

Airplane-300x202I was having a few flashbacks to civil procedure class in a recent Federal extradition case recently.  In law school, we had to learn the International Shoe standard of “minimum contacts which do not disturb traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” according to International Shoe, whereby a state in America obtains jurisdiction over a citizen of another American state.  Like trial lawyers, the United States wants its jurisdiction to spread far and wide.  It is a principal of Admiralty law that the United States has jurisdiction oceanwide.   Congress has also passed several laws to extend Federal criminal law jurisdiction as broadly as possible around the world.

This jurisdiction extends to people onboard international air flights.  21 U.S.C. 959(c) states:

Possession, manufacture, or distribution by person on board aircraft

It shall be unlawful for any United States citizen on board any aircraft, or any person on board an aircraft owned by a United States citizen or registered in the United States, to —  (1) manufacture or distribute a controlled substance or listed chemical; or (2) possess a controlled substance or listed chemical with intent to distribute.

Congress enacted this statute specifically to extend its jurisdiction over international drug trafficking crimes that actually happened on board aircrafts, one of the historical means of international trafficking.  See Public Law 114-154, Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2015 (“An Act To provide the Department of Justice with additional tools to target extraterritorial drug trafficking activity, and for other purposes.”)

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