In a recent case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia cited the Restatement of the Law Fourth, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States, in holding that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not err in exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes committed by foreign nationals against U.S. law-enforcement officers on foreign soil.

In United States v. Garcia Sota, 948 F.3d 356 (D.C. Cir. 2020), two Mexican nationals who were connected to the illegal drug trade killed one U.S. law-enforcement officer and injured another in Mexico during an attempt to steal their vehicle. The defendants were charged with, among other things, violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which criminalized the use of a firearm while committing a crime of violence. The district court entered judgment following a jury verdict against the defendants. On appeal, the defendants argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to convict them of violating § 924(c), because nothing in the statute evidenced congressional intent to grant extraterritorial jurisdiction to the statute.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed in part, holding that Congress intended for § 924(c) to apply to the use of firearms against U.S. officials on foreign soil in connection to drug trafficking. The court reasoned that § 924(c) “include[d] drug trafficking crimes as predicate offenses” and “specifically enumerate[d] 46 U.S.C. § 70503,” which criminalized drug acts that were “committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States” as crimes of violence. The court concluded that “these predicates provide[d] the necessary textual indication that Congress meant § 924(c) to apply overseas. . . .” The court observed that its holding did not “violate the law of nations,” because Restatement of the Law Fourth, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States § 402 and Restatement of the Law Third, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States § 412 allowed “a state to exercise jurisdiction to protect its officials overseas.”

Seo Ho Lee

The American Law Institute

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