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

The Federal Docket

July 24, 2023

Helaman Hansen was convicted of “encouraging or inducing an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such activity is or will be in violation of law” under 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). Hansen had been charged of running a fraudulent “adult adoption” scheme wherein he promised to obtain U.S. citizenship for immigrants.

Hansen challenged his conviction under the First Amendment, arguing that the criminal statute he was convicted under was overbroad as it could apply to protected speech.

In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed Hansen’s convictions and rejected his constitutional challenges under the First Amendment. The Court reasoned that 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) only criminalizes the “purposeful solicitation and facilitation of specific acts known to violate federal law,” thus narrowing the scope of the statute to exclude potentially protected speech. Though Congress used the words “encourage” and “induce” which ordinarily be used broadly, the Court concluded that Congress had intended to use these words as “terms of art” or a “specialized, criminal-law sense” to refer only to speech that involves “criminal solicitation and facilitation.”

Concurring, Justice Thomas wrote separately to criticize the Court’s recent precedents in the “facial overbreadth doctrine,” which he argued allows courts to “speculate about imaginary cases” in considering whether a statute is facially overbroad.

In dissent, Justice Jackson argued that the majority’s interpretation of the words “encourage” and “induce” significantly deviated from “ordinary principles of statutory interpretation.” In their ordinary sense, these words extended the scope of 1324(a)(1)(A) to apply to a broad category of speech that includes protected speech.

Opinion by Barrett, joined by Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh
Concurring opinion by Thomas
Dissent by Jackson, joined by Sotomayor

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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