JONES v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
99-5739
Petitioner 
Jones
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

In 1998, Dewey Jones, of Detroit, tossed a Molotov cocktail into the home of his cousin, James Walker, Jr., in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Walker's home was severely damaged. Subsequently, Jones was convicted in U.S. District Court of violating 18 U.S.C. section 844(i), which makes it a federal crime to "maliciously damage or destroy, ...by means of fire or an explosive, any building... used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce." The Court of Appeals affirmed Jones's conviction. Before both courts, Jones unsuccessfully argued that section 844(i), when applied to the arson of a private residence, exceeds the authority vested in Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Question 

Does the federal arson statute apply to the arson of a private residence?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Jones, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets, National Firearms, Organized Crime Control, Comprehensive Crime Control, or Gun Control Acts, except for RICO (q.v.) portion

No. In a unanimous opinion, delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court held that an owner-occupied residence not used for any commercial purpose does not qualify as property "used in" commerce or commerce-affecting activity, such that arson of such a dwelling is not subject to federal prosecution under section 844(i). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the Court that "[w]ere we to adopt the Government's expansive interpretation of section 844(i), hardly a building in the land would fall outside the federal statute's domain."

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JONES v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5739>.
JONES v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5739 (last visited October 20, 2014).
"JONES v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_5739.