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Travel Act 101

This is one of a series of blog posts surveying federal criminal law topics, grounded for the most part on a study of official federal circuit jury instructions. This one surveys the Travel Act. Before we get started, you may wish to look at the previous "101" posts:

Conspiracy
Mail and wire fraud part one (jurisdictional elements)
Mail and wire fraud part two (elements in common)
Obstruction of justice
Hobbs Act

Interstate travel in aid of racketeering (ITAR) (the Travel Act), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1952, was enacted in the 1960s to create a federal crime where "'top men' of a given criminal operation resided in one State but conducted their illegal activities in another; by creating a federal interest in limiting the interstate movement necessary to such operations, criminal conduct beyond the reach of local officials could be controlled." United States v. Nardello, 393 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969). Specifically, it provides that anyone who

travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent to (1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or (2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity; or (3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity, and thereafter performs or attempts to perform [one of these acts]

Facility "is a broad term that can have many meanings. The most common 'facilities' are telephone systems, highways, banking systems, and the postal service." Fed. Crim. Jury Instr. 7th Cir. 18 U.S.C. § 1952 (2018). It would cover the use of the Internet for emails, text messages, etc. See, e.g., United States v. Halloran, 821 F.3d 321, 342 (2d Cir. 2016).

Unlawful activity means

(1) any business enterprise involving gambling, liquor on which the Federal excise tax has not been paid, narcotics or controlled substances (as defined in [21 U.S.C. § 802(6)]), or prostitution offenses in violation of the laws of the State in which they are committed or of the United States, (2) extortion, bribery, or arson in violation of the laws of the State in which they are committed or of the United States, or (3) any act which is indictable under [31 U.S.C. §§ 5311-32] [monetary transaction reports] or under [18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 or 1957] [money laundering].

18 U.S.C. § 1952(b). In other words, where the allegation involves gambling, liquor, narcotics, controlled substances and prostitution, the unlawful activity must involve a business enterprise.

A business enterprise is

a continuous course of conduct or series of transactions to make a profit, not a casual, sporadic, or isolated activity. For this crime, the term includes illegal activities. It doesn't matter whether the illegal activity lasted for a particular length of time or was or was not the defendant's primary occupation. What the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant was involved in a business enterprise, as just defined, rather than casual, sporadic, or isolated activities.

Pattern Crim. Jury Instr. 11th Cir. OI O71 (2019). "The government need not prove, however, that the defendant personally engaged in a continuous course of conduct; it is sufficient for the defendant to have simply participated in such conduct." Pattern Crim. Jury Instr. 5th Cir. 2.74 note (2015). "There is no requirement that the interstate travel or use of interstate facilities be essential to the scheme. It is enough if the interstate travel or use of interstate facilities made the unlawful activity easier." Id.

Federal and state law (not common law) is consulted to determine whether the conduct violated the generic definition of the crime. See Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37, 50 (1979) (bribery includes state commercial bribery).

"Congress did not intend that the Travel Act should apply to criminal activity solely because that activity is at times patronized by persons from another State." Rewis v. United States, 401 U.S. 808, 812 (1971).

The maximum period of incarceration for an act described in § 1952(a)(1) (distribution the proceeds of any unlawful activity) or § 1952(a)(3) (otherwise promoting, managing, establishing, carrying on, or facilitating the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity) is five years. The maximum period of incarceration for an act described in § 1952(a)(2) (commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity) is twenty years, or life if death results. The Sentencing Guidelines range can be readily ascertained by using the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Calculator.

(10/31/19)

 
 
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