Flores-Figueroa v. United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Flores-Figueroa v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued February 25, 2009
Decided May 4, 2009
Full case nameIgnacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, Petitioner v. United States
Docket no.08-108
Citations556 U.S. 646 (more)
129 S. Ct. 1886; 173 L. Ed. 2d 853; 2009 U.S. LEXIS 3305
Case history
PriorDefendant convicted (S.D. Iowa 2008); affirmed, 274 F. App'x 501 (8th Cir. 2008); cert. granted, 555 U.S. 969 (2008).
The "knowingly" requirement for the federal crime of aggravated identify theft requires that the defendant knew that the false identification he used actually belonged to another person.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · David Souter
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Case opinions
MajorityBreyer, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg
ConcurrenceScalia, joined by Thomas
Laws applied
18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1)

Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646 (2009), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, holding that the law enhancing the sentence for identity theft requires proof that an individual knew that the identity card or number he had used belonged to another, actual person.[1] Simply using a Social Security Number is not sufficient connection to another individual.


Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, an illegal alien from Mexico, used a counterfeit Social Security card bearing his real name and a false Social Security number to obtain employment at a steel plant in East Moline, Illinois. Though he did not know it, the number belonged to a real person, a minor. The question in the case was whether workers who use false Social Security and alien registration numbers must know that they belong to a real person to be subject to a two-year sentence extension for "aggravated identity theft."

Specifically, the case hinged on whether the adverb "knowingly" applies only to the verb or also to the object in 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) (which defines aggravated identity theft): "Whoever [...] knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person [...]".[2][3]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Breyer on May 4, 2009, the Court held that a prosecutor must be able to show that a defendant knew that the identification he used actually belonged to another person.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646 (2009).
  2. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1)
  3. ^ Jason Merchant (February 25, 2009) Adverbial modification at the Supreme Court today, Language Log.

Further reading[edit]

  • Liptak, Adam (2008-10-20). "Justices Take Case on Illegal Workers and Penalties for Identity Theft". The New York Times.
  • Stout, David (2009-05-04). "Supreme Court Rules Against Government in Identity-Theft Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  • Traps, Leonid (2012). "'Knowingly' Ignorant: Mens Rea Distribution in Federal Criminal Law after Flores-Figueroa" (PDF). Columbia Law Review. 112 (3): 628–664.

External links[edit]