FLORES-FIGUEROA v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
08-108
Petitioner 
Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(argued the cause for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Ignacio Flores-Figueroa was convicted on two counts of aggravated identity theft in a federal district court and sentenced to 75 months imprisonment. On appeal, he argued that his conviction was in error because the government did not prove he knew the identification he possessed belonged to another person. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s decision. It held the government need not prove Mr. Flores-Figueroa knew the identification he possessed belonged to another person.

Question 

In order to prove aggravated identity theft, does the government need to prove the defendant knew the identification he possessed belonged to another person?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Flores-Figueroa, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Aggravated Identity Theft Statute

Yes. The Supreme Court held that the government needs to prove that the defendant "knew" that the identification he possessed belonged to another person. With Justice Stephen G. Breyer writing for the majority and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court reasoned that ordinary grammar indicates that "knowingly" should be read to apply to all subsequently listed elements of the crime in the relevant statute.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate concurring opinion and concurred in the judgment. He was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia argued that the Court should distinguish between those cases where it should infer a mens rea requirement when Congress has not addressed it within the statute, and those cases when Congress has intentionally limited the mens rea requirement to particular elements of the relevant crime. Justice Samuel A. Alito also wrote separately, concurring and concurring in the judgment. He noted his concern that the majority opinion may be read as a rigid rule of statutory construction where the mens rea requirement of a federal criminal statute will always apply to every element of the relevant crime.

Cite this Page
FLORES-FIGUEROA v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 17 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_108>.
FLORES-FIGUEROA v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_108 (last visited December 17, 2014).
"FLORES-FIGUEROA v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 17, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2008/2008_08_108.