MDLEAMaritime Drug Law Enforcement Act
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27) While the MDLEA and the acts preceding it served the United States' efforts in the drug war overseas, the application of the MDLEA has not been entirely consistent among the courts.
Before the enactment of the MDLEA, several courts dealing with drug trafficking crimes overseas required the establishment of a nexus between the activities of foreigners on vessels carrying narcotics and the interests of the United States, relying on international principles of jurisdiction.
Courts applying the MDLEA since its inception in 1986 agree that the Piracies and Felonies Clause provides constitutional authority for the legislation, but are split on whether courts have constitutional jurisdiction to apply the MDLEA without a nexus.
Nueci-Pena, the First Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether the MDLEA exceeded its constitutional jurisdiction by not requiring a nexus between the criminal conduct and the United States.
The Coast Guard constructed its proposal for the MASLEA in close cooperation with the Department of Justice using the MDLEA as a model.
3, 2010) (discussing history of maritime drug law enforcement prosecutions prior to passage of the the MASLEA, DOJ difficulties in applying title 21 offenses to major drug interdiction cases in the "transit zones" in the Eastern Pacific ocean and Caribbean, and the joint DOJ-Coast Guard effort to encourage Congress to pass the MDLEA as a law dedicated to the unique nature of maritime drug trafficking).
Effective analysis of extraterritorial application of the MDLEA requires a precise definition of jurisdiction so that a clear distinction can be drawn between the right to make rules and the right to enforce them.
In order for the MDLEA to satisfy prescriptive jurisdiction, the Constitution of the United States must grant Congress the authority to enact a statute governing the proscribed behavior and Congress must express the necessary intent to regulate the conduct.
ability to prosecute drug smugglers," (46) Congress still found it necessary to "facilitate enforcement by the Coast Guard of laws relating to the importation of illegal drugs" (47) by enacting the MDLEA in 1986.
20) On appeal, the defendants challenged the sufficiency of evidence, the finding of MDLEA jurisdiction under the stateless vessel analysis, and the trial judge's employment of the preponderance standard to make that determination.
27) The statelessness of a vessel is the threshold determination for a sovereign's exclusive jurisdiction over a vessel to transform into the common jurisdiction of any state, and it is within this custom that the MDLEA authorizes extraterritorial enforcement.
In 1996, Congress amended the MDLEA, expanding prosecutorial power by weakening foreign nation consent qualifiers, explicitly removing violation of international law as a defense, removing jurisdiction from classification as an element of the offense, and granting judges sole authority over jurisdiction.