Thursday, May 28, 2009

Supreme Court Rules Cell Phone Can't Turn Misdemeanor to Felony

The Supreme Court ruled that the government's interpretation of a statute to convert a misdemeanor to a felony was overly broad. The defendant had used a cell phone to set up the purchase of a misdemeanor amount of cocaine. The government argued that the defendant should be charged with a felony because they used a "communication facility" set up a drug transaction. A literal reading of 21 USC 843(b) made this into a felony. The Supreme Court rejected the governments interpretation of the statute because it was clearly not in line with Congress' intent when enacting the statute. The governments reading of the statute also conflicts with the classification of the drug itself as a misdemeanor. The majority opinion went on to point out the absurdity of the government's interpretation of the statute since it would expose the first time drug buyer using a phone "to punishment 12 times more severe than a purchase by a recidivist offender and 8 times more severe than the unauthorized possession of a drug by rapists."

The case is Abuelhawa v. U.S.

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