United States v. Flores
289 U.S. 137 (1933)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Flores, 289 U.S. 137 (1933)

ft:United States v. Flores, 289 U.S. 137 (1933)

United States v. Flores

No. 567

Argued March 14, 1933

Decided April 10, 1933

289 U.S. 137

Syllabus

1. The clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 8, specifically granting to Congress the power "to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations," and the general provision of Art. III, § 2, extending the judicial power "to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction," are the results of separate steps, independently taken in the Convention, by which the jurisdiction in admiralty, previously divided between the Confederation and the States, was transferred to the National Government. P. 289 U. S. 146.

2. In view of the history of the two clauses and the manner of their adoption, the grant of power to define and punish piracies and felonies on the high seas cannot be deemed to be a limitation on the powers, either legislative or judicial, conferred on the National Government by Art. III, § 2. P. 289 U. S. 149.

3. To construe the one clause as limiting, rather than supplementing, the other would be to ignore their history, and, without effecting any discernible purpose of their enactment, to deny to both the states and the national government powers which were common attributes of sovereignty before the adoption of the Constitution, including the power to define and punish crimes, of less gravity than felonies, committed on vessels of the United States while on the high seas, and crimes of every grade committed on them while in foreign territorial waters. P. 289 U. S. 149.

4. The jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime cases extends to crimes committed on vessels of the United States while in navigable waters within the territorial jurisdiction of foreign sovereigns. P. 289 U. S. 150.

Page 289 U. S. 138

5. The jurisdiction is not affected by the fact that the vessel is on a river at a place remote from the sea where the water is not salt or tidal. P. 289 U. S. 153.

6. Section 272 of the Criminal Code, making murder and other offenses punishable

"when committed within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state, on board any vessel belonging in whole or in part to the United States"

or any of its citizens, etc., is broad enough to include crimes in the territorial waters of foreign sovereignties. Pp. 289 U. S. 145, 289 U. S. 155.

7. Congress, by incorporating in the statute the very language of the constitutional grant of power, has made its exercise of the power coextensive with the grant. P. 289 U. S. 155.

8. The general rule that criminal statutes of the United States are not to be given extraterritorial effect is inapplicable to our merchant vessels. P. 289 U. S. 155.

9. A merchant ship, for purposes of the jurisdiction of the courts of the sovereignty whose flag it flies to punish crimes committed upon it, is deemed to be a part of the territory of that sovereignty, and not to lose that character when in navigable waters within the territorial limits of another sovereignty. P. 289 U. S. 155.

10. For some purposes, the jurisdiction to punish crimes committed on a foreign vessel in territorial waters is concurrent in the territorial sovereign and the sovereign of the vessel's flag. P. 289 U. S. 157.

11. In the absence of any controlling treaty provision, and of any assertion of jurisdiction by the territorial sovereign, it is the duty of the courts of the United States to apply to offenses committed by its citizens on vessels flying its flag, its own statutes, interpreted in the light of recognized principles of international law. P. 289 U. S. 159.

3 F.Supp. 134, reversed.

Appeal from a judgment sustaining a demurrer to an indictment, which charged the appellee, an American citizen, with having murdered another American citizen aboard an American ship in foreign territorial waters.

Page 289 U. S. 144

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