The statute that prohibits smuggling goods into the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 545, requires proof that a defendant knowingly or fraudulently imported merchandise or facilitated the transport of such merchandise “contrary to law.” In 2013, in United States v. Izurieta, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a regulatory violation carrying only civil implications could not serve as the underlying offense for the smuggling statute’s contrary to law provision given the felony criminal penalties associated with a violation of the statute. The Eleventh Circuit’s decision diverged from the 1994 and 2008 decisions of the Fourth and the Ninth Circuits in United States v. Mitchell and United States v. Alghazouli, respectively, which each outlined a different test for how regulations should be treated under the smuggling statute’s contrary to law provision. In contrast, the Eleventh Circuit applied the rule of lenity, granting leniency to the defendant because the criminal statute was found to be “grievously ambiguous” after the court attempted to interpret the statute using traditional canons of statutory construction. This Comment argues that the Eleventh Circuit prematurely applied the rule of lenity in Izurieta before properly conducting an analysis of the text, history, and structure of the statute.
C. A. Dilley, Eleventh Circuit Prematurely Applied the Rule of Lenity in United States v. Izurieta, 59 B.C.L. Rev. E. Supp. 554 (2018), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol59/iss9/32