Constitutionality of the Carjacking Statute
As of 1996 all challenges to the constitutionality of the
statute have failed. Nevertheless, prosecutors should be aware that the
"commerce" nexus utilized by the Congress in the carjacking statute, namely
the motor vehicle has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce at
point of time prior to the completion of the carjacking offense, is an
broad assertion of Federal jurisdiction. In light of United States v.
Lopez, ___ U.S.____, 115 S.Ct. 1624 (1995), the commerce nexus in the
carjacking statute is likely to be continued to be challenged until the
Court ultimately resolves the issue.|
In Lopez, the Supreme Court invalidated, as beyond the
of Congress under the Commerce Clause, the Gun Free School Zone Act, which
criminalized the possession of a firearm within 1000 feet of a school. The
Supreme Court identified the three categories of activities that Congress
regulate within its Commerce Clause powers. First, Congress may regulate
of the channels of interstate commerce. Id. at 1629. Second,
is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate
commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the
come only from intrastate activity. Id. at 1629. Third, Congress'
commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a
substantial relation to interstate commerce. Id. at 1629.
In reviewing an act of Congress passed pursuant to the Commerce
the courts traditionally defer to Congress because "the Commerce Clause
Congress extensive power and ample discretion to determine its appropriate
exercise." Lopez, ___ U.S.___, 115 S.Ct at 1634 (Kennedy, J.,
concurring). The proper inquiry on review is whether a rational basis
Congress to conclude that a regulated activity sufficiently affected
United States v. Coleman, 78 F.3d 154,157 (5th Cir. 1996).
Prior to the Lopez decision, numerous circuit courts had
that the carjacking statute was constitutional under the Commerce Clause.
See, e.g., United States v. Martinez, 49 F.3d 1398, 1400-01
Cir. 1995) (upheld section 2119 because (1) the court could not "say that
Congress had no rational basis for its findings" and (2) "a present nexus
a regulated activity and interstate commerce is not required under the
Clause"); United States v. Overstreet, 40 F.3d 1090, 1093 (10th Cir.
1994)(finding the nexus between section 2119 and interstate commerce in: 1)
effect of carjacking on interstate travel and the travel of foreign citizens
this country; 2) the impact of the sale of stolen cars and parts in
commerce; and 3) increased insurance premiums that results from
cert. denied, U.S. , 115 S.Ct. 1970 (1995);
States v. Harris, 25 F.3d 1275, 1280 (5th Cir. 1994), cert.
U.S. , 115 S.Ct. 458 (1994) (because of the obvious
that carjackings have on interstate commerce, the court held that the
statute was a valid exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause powers);
States v. Johnson, 22 F.3d 106, 109 (6th Cir. 1994)("carjacking as a
of criminal activity has an effect on interstate travel and the travel of
citizens to this country").
Subsequent to the Lopez decision, the following cases have
that the carjacking statute is a constitutional exercise of Congress'
Clause authority: United States v. Coleman, 78 F.3d 154 (5th Cir.
1996)(Congress could rationally believe that activity of auto theft has
substantial effect on interstate commerce); United States v.
75 F.3d 626 (11th Cir. 1996)(carjacking statute constitutional, citing
Williams below); United States v. Bishop, 66 F.3d 569 (3d
cert. denied, ___ U.S.___, 116 S.Ct.681 (1995)(Congress could
believe that activity of auto theft has substantial effect on interstate
commerce); United States v. Robinson, 62 F.3d 234, 236-37 (8th Cir.
United States v. Oliver, 60 F.3d 547, 549-50 (9th Cir. 1995);
States v. Williams, 51 F.3d 1004, 1008 (11th Cir 1995), cert.
U.S. , 116 S.Ct. 1624 (1995); United States v.
Garcia-Beltran, 890 F. Supp. 67 (D. P.R. 1995) (carjacking, the violent
taking of a commodity and instrumentality of commerce, affects interstate
[cited in USAM 9-60.1000]