United States v. Vastardis

The Third Circuit returned to the high seas when it held that, though the defendant could not be convicted in a U.S. Court for crimes occurring in international water, the crimes here occurred in U.S. waters. Thus, the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions. The United States requires ocean-going tank vessels to maintain an “oil record book”, a running log that includes detailed entries for every onboard oil transfer operation. The defendant was the chief engineer responsible for maintaining the oil record book on his ship. During an inspection at a Delaware port, U.S. officials discovered a hidden valve that made it possible for the defendant to show a far lower reading on a system that was documented in the oil record book. The defendant claimed that any crime that occurred was on the high seas and thus not subject to jurisdiction in the U.S. But the Third Circuit disagreed and held that the defendant was required to maintain accurate records and, while in the U.S., he did not do so. That subjected him to jurisdiction. But the Third Circuit remanded for resentencing because one of the conditions of probation imposed on the defendant — a Greek national — was banishment from the U.S. The Court held that a district court abuses its discretion, circumvents the authority of the Attorney General, and oversteps the bounds of the judiciary when it imposes banishment as a condition of probation.

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