Flores-Figueroa v. United States
|Flores-Figueroa v. United States|
|Argued February 25, 2009|
Decided May 4, 2009
|Full case name||Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, Petitioner v. United States|
|Citations||556 U.S. 646 (more)|
|Prior||Defendant 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.|
|Majority||Breyer, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg|
|Concurrence||Scalia, joined by Thomas|
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. 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 [...]".
Opinion of the Court
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.
- 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.
- Text of Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646 (2009) is available from: Cornell CourtListener Findlaw Google Scholar Justia Oyez (oral argument audio)
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