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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Rodriguez-Moreno - 526 U.S. 275, 119 S. Ct. 1239 (1999)

Rule:

Where a crime consists of distinct parts which have different localities the whole may be tried where any part can be proved to have been done. Under 18 U.S.C.S. § 3237(a), Congress has provided that continuing offenses can be tried in any district in which such offense was begun, continued, or completed. Where venue is appropriate for the underlying crime of violence, so, too, it is for an offense under 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(c)(1).

Facts:

After a drug dealer stole cocaine from a drug distributor during a drug transaction in Texas, the distributor, an accused, and others, in seeking to find the dealer, drove from Texas to New Jersey to New York to Maryland while holding captive the middleman in the transaction. In Maryland, the accused took possession of a gun and threatened to kill the middleman. The middleman escaped, and the accused eventually was charged in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey with, among other offenses, conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, and violating 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(c)(1) (later amended), which prohibited using and carrying a firearm in relation to any crime of violence. After the District Court denied the accused's motion to dismiss the § 924(c)(1) charge on the asserted basis that venue for trial of that charge was proper in only Maryland, which was the only federal judicial district in which the government had proved that the accused had used the gun, the accused was found guilty on both kidnapping charges and on § 924(c)(1) charge. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the conviction under § 924(c)(1), after applying what it called the "verb test" in concluding that venue for a § 924(c)(1) charge was proper in only a district in which a defendant used or carried a firearm, and thus, was improper in New Jersey in this case, even though venue was proper there for the kidnapping charges.

Issue:

Should the venue in a prosecution under § 924(c)(1) be held in a district in which a defendant used or carried a firearm? 

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that venue in a prosecution under § 924(c)(1) was proper in any federal judicial district where the underlying crime of violence was committed, and therefore, venue was proper in New Jersey for prosecution of the § 924(c)(1) charge against the accused, because the kidnapping, to which the § 924(c)(1) offense attached, was committed in all of the places in which any part of the kidnapping took place. Moreover, the Court held that 18 U.S.C.S. § 3237 provided that a continuing offense can be tried in any district in which such offense was begun, continued, or completed, and where venue was appropriate for the underlying crime of violence, so too it was for the § 924(c)(1) offense.

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