United States v. Gonzalez Iguaran, No. 15-13659 (11th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a)(1), 70506(b). The court rejected the government's contention that it should review only for plain error where the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that the court reviews de novo even when it is raised for the first time on appeal. In this case, the district court did not expressly make any factual findings with respect to its jurisdiction. In the plea agreement, defendant does not admit to facts that give rise to jurisdiction. The agreement does not state, for example, that defendant and his coconspirators failed to “make a claim of nationality” upon request when United States officials apprehended them. Instead, it asserts that defendant was on a vessel subject to the United States’ jurisdiction. The court concluded that a limited remand is the proper course of action in this case. Therefore, the court remanded the case to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.