Flores-Figueroa v. United States - Oral Argument - February 25, 2009

Flores-Figueroa v. United States

Media for Flores-Figueroa v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 04, 2009 in Flores-Figueroa v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 2009 in Flores-Figueroa v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 08-108, Flores-Figueroa v. United States.

Mr. Russell.

Kevin K. Russell:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: In common usage, to say that somebody knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses something is to say that that person knows what it is that he is transferring, possessing, or using.

If I say that John knowingly used a pair of scissors of his mother, I am saying not simply that John knew that he was using something which turned out to be his mother's scissors or even that John knew he was using scissors which turned out to be his mother's, I am saying that John knew that the scissors he was using belonged to his mother.

The same principle follows under the Federal aggravated identity theft statute, which calls for a two-year mandatory sentence for anyone who, during and in relation certain predicate offenses--

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

Doesn't that depend on the context?

You could think of examples where you have exactly the same usage and the person wouldn't necessarily know about the ownership of the thing in question?

Kevin K. Russell:

--I haven't been able to think of one.

The government hasn't been able to come up with one.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Well, how about so and so stole the car that belonged to Mr. Jones?

Kevin K. Russell:

I think--

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

I suppose you could say that -- that the person knew it was Mr. Jones's car, but more likely somebody stole the car that turned out to be Mr. Jones's.

Kevin K. Russell:

--I do think that that formulation gives rise to a little bit more ambiguity in that context.

I think, though, if you said

"stole the car of Mr. Jones. "

it's -- it's not particularly ambiguous.

At the very least, this is a formulation that I think--

Antonin Scalia:

He says he knowingly stole the car that belonged to Mr. Jones.

Wouldn't that be the parallel?

Kevin K. Russell:

--Yes, I'm sorry if I left that part out.

Antonin Scalia:

You left out the "knowingly".

Kevin K. Russell:

Yes.

Antonin Scalia:

Once you put in "knowingly"--

Kevin K. Russell:

I think if the statement is, you know, John knowingly stole the car of Mr. Jones, that strongly implies that John knew that the car belonged to Mr. Jones.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

I repeat, doesn't that depend on the context?

You say -- somebody says to you, you know a car was stolen from our street last night?

Oh, what car was stolen?

Oh, it was the car of Mr. Jones.

He knowingly stole the car of Mr. Jones.

It doesn't necessarily mean that the person who stole the car knew that it was Mr. Jones's car.