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United States v. Romero-Galue

757 F.2d 1147 (1985)

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United States v. Romero-Galue

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

757 F.2d 1147 (1985)

Facts

On January 7, 1984, a United States Coast Guard vessel, Escape, was patrolling an area in the Caribbean Sea about 350 miles from United States territory. Escape spotted El Don, a shrimp boat apparently suffering engine trouble. The Coast Guard suspected El Don was a smuggling vessel because the boat lacked fishing rigging and markings identifying its home port. Exercising the right of approach, a principle of international law where a government vessel may stop another vessel to ascertain that vessel’s nationality, the Coast Guard approached El Don. The Coast Guard boarded El Don and discovered more than four tons of marijuana in the hold. The Coast Guard determined the vessel had Panamanian registration papers and communicated this information to the US State Department. After communicating with the Panamanian government, the State Department ordered the Coast Guard to seize El Don and bring the vessel and its crew to Key West, Florida. On January 20, 1984, the United States (plaintiff) indicted the crew of El Don (defendants) under the Marijuana on the High Seas Act of 1980 (Section 955a(c) of Title 21). The District Court dismissed Count II of the indictment, holding that the defendant’s possession of marijuana occurred beyond the territorial waters of the United States and was beyond the jurisdiction of Section 955a(c). The government appealed the district court’s dismissal of Count II to the Eleventh Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tjoflat, J.)

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