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Bond v. United States - 572 U.S. 844, 134 S. Ct. 2077 (2014)

Rule:

The global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the federal government to reach into the kitchen cupboard, or to treat a local assault with a chemical irritant as the deployment of a chemical weapon. There is no reason to suppose that Congress, in implementing the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, thought otherwise.

Facts:

To implement the International Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, Congress enacted the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 (Act). The statute forbids, among other things, any person knowingly to possessor use any chemical weapon. Petitioner Carol Anne Bond sought revenge against Myrlinda Haynes - with whom Carol Anne's husband had carried on an affair - by spreading two toxic chemicals on Haynes's car, mailbox, and doorknob in hopes that Haynes would develop an uncomfortable rash. On one occasion Haynes suffered a minor chemical burn that she treated by rinsing with water, but Bond's attempted assaults were otherwise entirely unsuccessful. Federal prosecutors charged Bond with violating, among other things, 18 U.S.C.S. § 229(a). Bond moved to dismiss the chemical weapons charges on the ground that the Act violates the Tenth Amendment. When the District Court denied her motion, she pleaded guilty but reserved the right to appeal. On appeal, the Third Circuit initially held that Bond lacked standing to raise her Tenth Amendment challenge, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the Third Circuit rejected her Tenth Amendment argument and her additional argument that section 229 does not reach her conduct.The District Court sentenced Bond to six years in federal prison plus five years of supervised release, and ordered her to pay a $2,000 fine and $9,902.79 in restitution.

Issue:

Did section 229 of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998 reach petitioner Bond’s conduct?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that Section 229 does not reach Bond's simple assault. The Court posited that because the federal constitutional structure left local criminal activity primarily to the states, judicial precedent generally declined to read federal law as intruding on that responsibility, unless Congress clearly indicated that the law should have had such reach. The Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act contained no such clear indication where the general definition of chemical weapon, although defined broadly, was not a clear statement that Congress meant the statute to reach local criminal conduct. The chemicals used by petitioner were not of the sort that an ordinary person would have associated with instruments of chemical warfare. 

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