United States v. Fries

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 03-30-2015
  • Case #: 13-10116
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rawlinson for the Court; Circuit Judge Tallman and Senior District Judge Garbis
  • Full Text Opinion

Where the nature of criminal acts have the potential to cause suffering to many people, the federal government has the authority to prosecute pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 229(a)

Todd Russell Fries was convicted for using a chemical weapon and making false statements to the Federal Beaureau of Investigation in connection with his use of a chemical weapon. In Fries’ pre-trial motions, he argued both counts should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and that the evidence from his home should be suppressed because the search warrant was stale. However, both Fries' motion to dismiss and motion to suppress were both denied, and due to Fries’ obstruction of justice, he received a two-level enhancement at his sentencing hearing. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined whether the government may proscribe certain acts committed by Fries, holding that the government had jurisdiction to prosecute Fries because there is a substantial interest in enforcing criminal laws that may potentially cause mass suffering. Therefore, the panel found that because Fries' detonation of bombs had the potential to cause mass suffering, causing an entire neighborhood to be evacuated, he could be prosecuted accordingly. Additionally, Fries’ motion to suppress was properly denied because the search warrant was not stale due to his continuing pattern of vandalizing homes, and the fact that the agents’ search of his house was particularly limited. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court’s convictions and sentencing. AFFIRMED.

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