__ U.S. __ (2015), 14-378, McFadden v. United States

Docket Nº:14-378
Citation:__ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2298, 192 L.Ed.2d 260, 83 U.S.L.W. 4440
Opinion Judge:THOMAS, JUSTICE.
Party Name:STEPHEN DOMINICK MCFADDEN, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
Attorney:Kevin K. Russell argued the cause for petitioner. Sarah E. Harrington argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, concurring
Case Date:June 18, 2015
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

McFadden was charged with violation of the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, which identifies substances substantially similar to those listed on the federal controlled substances schedules, 21 U.S.C. 802(32)(A), and instructs courts to treat those analogues as schedule I controlled substances if they are intended for human consumption, Arguing that he did not know the “bath salts” he was... (see full summary)

 
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__ U.S. __ (2015)

135 S.Ct. 2298, 192 L.Ed.2d 260, 83 U.S.L.W. 4440, 25 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 352

STEPHEN DOMINICK MCFADDEN, PETITIONER

v.

UNITED STATES

No. 14-378

United States Supreme Court

June 18, 2015

[135 S.Ct. 2299] Argued April 21, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

SYLLABUS

[135 S.Ct. 2300] [192 L.Ed.2d 264] Petitioner McFadden was arrested and charged with distributing controlled substance analogues in violation of the federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (Analogue Act), which identifies [192 L.Ed.2d 265] a category of substances substantially similar to those listed on the federal controlled substances schedules, 21 U.S.C. § 802(32)(A), and instructs courts to treat those analogues as schedule I controlled substances if they are intended for human consumption, § 813. Arguing that he did not know the " bath salts" he was distributing were regulated as controlled substance analogues, McFadden sought an instruction that would have prevented the jury from finding him guilty unless it found that he knew the substances he distributed had chemical structures and effects on the central nervous system substantially similar to those of controlled substances. Instead, the District Court instructed the jury that it need only find that McFadden knowingly and intentionally distributed a substance with substantially similar effects on the central nervous system as a controlled substance and that he intended that substance to be consumed by humans. McFadden was convicted. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Analogue Act's intent element required only proof that McFadden intended the substance to be consumed by humans.

Held : When a controlled substance is an analogue, § 841(a)(1) requires the Government to establish that the defendant knew he was dealing with a substance regulated under the Controlled Substances Act or Analogue Act. Pp. 4-11.

(a) In addressing the treatment of controlled substance analogues under federal law, one must look to the CSA, which, as relevant here, makes it " unlawful for any person knowingly . . . to distribute . . . a controlled substance." § 841(a)(1). The ordinary meaning of that provision requires a defendant to know only that the substance he is distributing is some unspecified substance listed on the federal drug schedules. Thus, the Government must show either that the defendant knew he was distributing a substance listed on [135 S.Ct. 2301] the schedules, even if he did not know which substance it was, or that the defendant knew the identity of the substance he was distributing, even if he did not know it was listed on the schedules.

Because the Analogue Act extends that framework to analogous substances, the CSA's mental-state requirement applies when the controlled substance is, in fact, an analogue. It follows that the Government must prove that a defendant knew that the substance he was distributing was " a controlled substance," even in prosecutions dealing with analogues. That knowledge requirement can be established in two ways: by evidence that a defendant knew that the substance he was distributing is controlled under the CSA or Analogue Act, regardless of whether he knew the substance's identity; or by evidence that the defendant knew the specific analogue he was distributing, even if he did not know its legal status as a controlled substance analogue. A defendant with knowledge of the features defining a substance as a controlled substance analogue, § 802(32)(A), knows all of the facts that make his conduct illegal. Pp. 4-8.

(b) The Fourth Circuit did not adhere to § 813's command to treat a controlled substance analogue as a controlled substance listed in schedule I by applying § 841(a)(1)'s mental-state requirement. Instead, it concluded that the only mental-state requirement for analogue prosecutions [192 L.Ed.2d 266] is the one in § 813--that an analogue be " intended for human consumption." That conclusion is inconsistent with the text and structure of the statutes.

Neither the Government's nor McFadden's interpretation fares any better. The Government's contention that § 841(a)(1)'s knowledge requirement as applied to analogues is satisfied if the defendant knew he was dealing with a substance regulated under some law ignores § 841(a)(1)'s requirement that a defendant know he was dealing with " a controlled substance." That term includes only drugs listed on the federal drug schedules or treated as such by operation of the Analogue Act; it is not broad enough to include all substances regulated by any law. McFadden contends that a defendant must also know the substance's features that cause it to fall within the scope of the Analogue Act. But the key fact that brings a substance within the scope of the Analogue Act is that the substance is " controlled," and that fact can be established in the two ways previously identified. Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 114 S.Ct. 1793, 128 L.Ed.2d 608, distinguished. Contrary to McFadden's submission, the canon of constitutional avoidance " has no application" in the interpretation of an unambiguous statute such as this one. Warger v. Shauers, 574 U.S. __, ___., 135 S.Ct. 521, 190 L.Ed.2d 422, 432. But even if the statute were ambiguous, the scienter requirement adopted here " alleviate[s] vagueness concerns" under this Court's precedents. Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 149, 127 S.Ct. 1610, 167 L.Ed.2d 480. Pp. 8-10.

(c) The Government argues that no rational jury could have concluded that McFadden was unaware that the substances he was distributing were controlled under the CSA or Analogue Act and that any error in the jury instruction was therefore harmless. The Fourth Circuit, which did not conduct a harmless-error analysis, is to consider that issue in the first instance. Pp. 10-11.

753 F.3d 432, vacated and remanded.

Kevin K. Russell argued the cause for petitioner.

Sarah E. Harrington argued the cause for respondent.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

OPINION

[135 S.Ct. 2302] THOMAS, JUSTICE.

The Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (Analogue Act) identifies a category of substances substantially similar to those listed on the federal controlled substance schedules, 21 U.S.C. § 802(32)(A), and then instructs courts to treat those analogues, if intended for human consumption, as controlled substances listed on schedule I for purposes of federal law, § 813. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in turn makes it unlawful knowingly to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. § 841(a)(1). The question presented in this case concerns the knowledge necessary for conviction [192 L.Ed.2d 267] under § 841(a)(1) when the controlled substance at issue is in fact an analogue.

We hold that § 841(a)(1) requires the Government to establish that the defendant knew he was dealing with " a controlled substance." When the substance is an analogue, that knowledge requirement is met if the defendant knew that the substance was controlled under the CSA or the Analogue Act, even if he did not know its identity. The knowledge requirement is also met if the defendant knew the specific features of the substance that make it a " 'controlled substance analogue.'" § 802(32)(A). Because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit approved a jury instruction that did not accurately convey this knowledge requirement, we vacate its judgment and remand for that court to determine whether the error was harmless.

I

In 2011, law enforcement officials in Charlottesville, Virginia, began investigating individuals at a Charlottesville video store for suspected distribution of " bath salts" --various recreational drugs used to produce effects similar to those of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other controlled substances. The owner of the store, Lois McDaniel, had been purchasing bath salts from petitioner Stephen McFadden for several months. McFadden had marketed the substances to her as " Alpha," " No Speed," " Speed," " Up," and " The New Up," and had compared them to cocaine and crystal meth. He had often sold those products with labels borrowing language from the Analogue Act, asserting that the contents were " not for human consumption" or stating that a particular product " does not contain any of the following compounds or analogues of the following compounds" and listing controlled substances. McDaniel purchased the bath salts for $15 per gram and resold them for $30 to $70 per gram.

[135 S.Ct. 2303] After investigators had conducted two controlled buys from the store and confronted McDaniel, she agreed to cooperate in their investigation by making five controlled buys from McFadden. The Government intercepted the substances McFadden sent when they arrived at the local FedEx store. Like the substances sold in the video store, these substances were white and off-white powders packaged in small plastic bags. Chemical analysis identified the powders as containing, among other substances, 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV; 3,4-Methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinone, also known as Methylone or MDMC; and 4-Methyl-N-ethylcathinone, also known as 4-MEC. When ingested, each of these substances is capable of producing effects on the central nervous system similar to those that controlled substances (such as cocaine,...

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