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Criminal Resource Manual

1113. Enactment of the Carjacking Statute and Congressional Power

Congress had a rational basis for finding that carjacking has at least a de minimis effect on interstate commerce. The statute requires only that the stolen vehicle have been in interstate commerce at some point in time. A present nexus between the regulated activity and interstate commerce is not required. See United States v. Martinez, 49 F.3d 1398 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, U.S. , 115 S.Ct.749 (1996).

An issue that has been the subject of judicial consideration is whether the government must prove that the motor vehicle, which was the subject of the carjacking, was in interstate commerce at the time of the carjacking. Defendants argue that the statute requires that the car be moving in interstate commerce at the time it is carjacked. The Sixth Circuit has rejected that argument, holding that the carjacking statute applies whether the car is "moving in interstate commerce" at the time of the carjacking or has "come to rest" in a State, as long as at some point, the car was in interstate commerce. United States v. Johnson, 22 F.3d 106, 109 (6th Cir. 1994).

In a case raising the same issue involving firearms, the Supreme Court has declared that when Congress uses the phrase: "has been transported, shipped, or received in interstate commerce", it clearly denotes an act that has been completed. Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212, 216 (1976). The Court concluded: "Thus, there is no warping or stretching of language when the statute is applied to a firearm that already has completed its interstate journey and has come to rest in the dealer's showcase at the time of its purchase and receipt by the felon." Id. at 217. See Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Huddleston v. United States, 415 U.S. 814 (1974); United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336 (1971); See also Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971), for a general discussion of the reaches of the commerce power and accompanying language to reflect the exercise of that power.

In applying the Supreme Court's analysis of § 922(g) in Barrett to § 2119, the Ninth Circuit in Martinez concluded that the language "has been transported ... in interstate" commerce applies to stolen motor vehicles that at some point in the past were transported in interstate commerce, even though they were not involved in interstate commerce at the time of the carjacking. Martinez, 49 F.3d at 1401.

[cited in USAM 9-60.1000]