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Flores-Figueroa v. United States

Flores-Figueroa v. United States
Argued February 25, 2009
Decided May 4, 2009
Full case name Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, Petitioner v. United States
Docket nos. 08-108
Citations 556 U.S. 646 (more)
Prior history convicted (S.D.Iowa 2008), affirmed 274 Fed. Appx. 501 (8th Circ., 2008), reversed and remanded U.S.
The "knowingly" requirement for the federal crime of aggravated identify theft requires that the defendant knew that the false identification he used actually belonged to another person.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Breyer, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg
Concurrence Scalia, joined by Thomas
Concurrence Alito
Laws applied
18 U.S.C. §1028A(a)(1)

Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646 (2009), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, holding that the law enhancing the sentence for identity theft requires proof that an individual knew that the identity card or number he had used belonged to another, actual person. Simply using a Social Security Number is not sufficient connection to another individual.

Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, an illegal alien from Mexico, used a counterfeit Social Security card bearing his real name and a false Social Security number to obtain employment at a steel plant in East Moline, Illinois. Though he did not know it, the number belonged to a real person, a minor. The question in the case was whether workers who use false Social Security and alien registration numbers must know that they belong to a real person to be subject to a two-year sentence extension for "aggravated identity theft."

Specifically, the case hinged on whether the adverb "knowingly" applies only to the verb or also to the object in 18 U.S.C. §1028A(a)(1) (which defines aggravated identity theft): "Whoever [...] knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person [...]".[1]

In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Breyer delivered on May 4, 2009, the Court held that a prosecutor must be able to show that a defendant knew that the identification he used actually belonged to another person.


  • See also 1
  • References 2
  • Further reading 3
  • External links 4

See also


  1. ^ Jason Merchant (February 25, 2009) Adverbial modification at the Supreme Court today, Language Log.

Further reading

  • Liptak, Adam (2008-10-20). "Justices Take Case on Illegal Workers and Penalties for Identity Theft".  
  • Stout, David (2009-05-04). "Supreme Court Rules Against Government in Identity-Theft Case".  
  • Traps, Leonid (2012). "Flores-Figueroa"‘Knowingly’ Ignorant: Mens Rea Distribution in Federal Criminal Law after .  

External links

  • Full text of opinion

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