SW Legal studies in Business

Congress May Regulate the Use of Bullet-Proof Vests
Description

Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute making it a crime for a convicted felon to possess body armor, such as a bullet-proof vest. The vests are sold in interstate commerce, so under the Commerce Clause, Congress may regulate their usage and impose criminal penalties for violations of the law.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Commerce Clause; Interstate Commerce; Felony; Body Armor

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Alderman, who was on parole for felony robbery, was arrested for buying cocaine. When arrested, he was found to be wearing a bulletproof vest. He was charged with violating a federal law that makes it illegal for a person convicted of a felony involving a crime of violence to possess body armor. Alderman challenged the constitutionality of the Body Armor Act of 2002, contending it exceeded Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. The district court rejected that argument and convicted him of violating the statute. He appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. There are three general categories of regulation in which Congress is authorized to engage under its commerce power: 1) the use of the channels of interstate commerce; 2) the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and 3) activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce. The felon-in-possession of body armor statute did not exceed Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. The sale of body armor in interstate commerce created sufficient nexus between possession of body armor and commerce and sufficient effect on interstate commerce to allow federal regulation under Commerce Clause authority.

Citation

U.S. v. Alderman, 565 F.3d 641 (9th Cir., 2009)

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