United States v. Nueci-Pena, No. 10-2281 (1st Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
A drug interdiction in Caribbean waters by the United States Coast Guard ended with the arrest and indictment of multiple defendants, including Appellant. The Coast Guard determined that the vessel was "without nationality" and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Appellant was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute more than 1140 pounds of cocaine and heroin while on board a vessel in violation of the MDLEA. On appeal, Appellant argued that Congress lacked the authority under the Piracies and Felonies Clause to criminalize drug trafficking on board a vessel in international waters under the MDLEA without requiring a nexus between the conduct and the United States. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that any jurisdictional error under the MDLEA related to Appellant's conviction did not constitute plain error in this case.