November 10, 2004
High Court Hears Pasquantino Case
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of Pasquantino v. United States. This is a wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343) case emanting from the Fourth Circuit. The defendants "were convicted of using interstate wires for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud Canada and the Province of Ontario of excise duties and tax revenues relating to the importation and sale of liquor."
Oddly enough many newspapers seem to be omitting discussion of this case. They shouldn't - as this case may set the tone for how far the government can go with extraterritorial prosecutions.
The Baltimore Sun, in an article titled "High Court Hears Smuggling Case Involving Liquor From Maryland," notes how some justices were concerned about the possibility that the U.S. might punish the defendants, and then another country (Canada in this case) might also proceed against them for the same conduct. This is a legitimate concern, since if the positions were reversed the U.S. would be able to proceed because of the dual sovereignty rule. So the net result is that we could have countries all prosecuting the same person for the same crime.