Smith v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2023)

The Federal Docket

July 24, 2023

Timothy Smith was charged with theft of trade secrets and filed a motion to dismiss based on a lack of venue, arguing that he shouldn’t be tried in the Northern District of Florida because he accessed the trade secrets from the alleged victim’s website while he was in the Southern District of Alabama, and the alleged victim’s servers, where the secrets were stored, was in the Middle District of Florida. The trial court denied his motion to dismiss, and later Smith’s motion for judgment of acquittal on the same grounds, after concluding that the “effects of Smith’s crimes” were felt at the alleged victim’s headquarters, which was in the Northern District of Florida.

On appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, the panel held that venue was improper but that he could still be re-prosecuted in the correct venue. Smith appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution “permits the retrial of a defendant following a trial in an improper venue conducted before a jury drawn from the wrong district.” The Court reasoned that, absent exceptions under the Double Jeopardy Clause or the Speedy Trial Clause, “the strongest appropriate remedy for trial error is a new trial, not a judgment barring reprosecution.” The Court concluded that the text and history of the Venue and Vicinage Clauses of the Constitution did not support barring a retrial.

Opinion by Alito, joined by a unanimous Court.

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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