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McFadden v. United States

Justia Summary

McFadden was charged with violation of the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, which identifies substances substantially similar to those listed on the federal controlled substances schedules, 21 U.S.C. 802(32)(A), and instructs courts to treat those analogues as schedule I controlled substances if they are intended for human consumption, Arguing that he did not know the “bath salts” he was distributing were regulated as analogues, McFadden unsuccessfully sought an instruction that would have prevented the jury from finding him guilty unless it found that he knew the substance had chemical structures and effects on the central nervous system substantially similar to those of controlled substances. The Fourth Circuit affirmed his conviction, holding that the Analogue Act’s intent element required only proof that McFadden intended the substance to be consumed by humans. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. Section 841(a)(1) requires the prosecution to establish that the defendant knew he was dealing with a substance regulated under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) or Analogue Act. The CSA’s mental-state requirement applies when the controlled substance is, in fact, an analogue; the prosecution must prove that a defendant knew that the substance was “a controlled substance,” even in prosecutions dealing with analogues. The key fact that brings a substance within the scope of the Act is that the substance is “controlled.” That can be established by evidence that a defendant knew that the substance is controlled under the CSA or Analogue Act, regardless of whether he knew the substance’s identity, or by evidence that the defendant knew the specific analogue he was distributing, even if he did not know its legal status as an analogue. A defendant with knowledge of the features defining a controlled substance analogue under section 802(32)(A), knows all of the facts that make his conduct illegal.

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