South-Western Legal Studies in Business

No Conviction for Planning Drug Operations That Occur Outside of the Country

Appeals court held that parties in the U.S. who coordinated the sale of illegal drugs outside of the country could not be convicted of violating U.S. drug laws since the statutes do not apply to violations that occur outside of the U.S.

Topic Criminal Law
Key Words

Criminal Law; Conspiracy; Extraterritoriality; Drugs

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The government alleged that Salazar and Lopez brokered a deal in Miami between a Columbian drug organization headed by Usuga and a Saudi Arabian Prince, Al-Shallan. The plan was to transport cocaine on the Prince’s airplane from Caracas, Venezuela to Paris, France, for distribution in Europe. Salazar and Lopez were convicted on one count each of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine in violation of various drug laws. Usuga and the Prince, not being in the U.S., were not arrested. Salazar and Lopez appeal.


Vacated. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act does not apply extraterritorially to discussions that occur in the United States related to possession of controlled substances outside of the United States with intent to distribute those substances outside of the United States. Extraterritorial application of the law was not mentioned in the statute. A silent criminal statute is presumed to apply only domestically. They apply outside of the United States only if Congress intends it. Hence, Lopez and Salazar cannot be convicted.


United States v. Lopez, 494 F.3d 1305 (11th Cir., 2007)

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