McFadden v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: January 16, 2015
  • Case #: 14-378
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 753 F.3d 432 (4th Cir. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the government must prove a defendant knew a substance was a controlled substance before convicting the defendant for distribution of a controlled substance.

The Controlled Substance Act was established to deter individuals from creating new drugs with similar events on the human body as drugs that are explicitly prohibited under the Federal Drug Act. It prohibits "knowingly or intentionally manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.” 21 U.S.C. § 841(a).

Petitioner, a construction worker, began a small business selling overstocked items online. He began selling bath salts after reviewing a list of controlled substances and not finding it listed. He was subsequently charged under the Controlled Substance Act for selling the bath salts, because the ingredients were similar to those on the controlled substance list. The Defendant argued he did not know the bath salts were considered a controlled substance, and thus he could not be convicted of distribution of a controlled substance. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a split among circuits as to whether "the government must prove that the defendant knew that the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue."

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