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Musacchio v. United States

United States Supreme Court

January 25, 2016


         [136 S.Ct. 710] Argued November 30, 2015




         [136 S.Ct. 711] [193 L.Ed.2d 643] Petitioner Musacchio resigned as president of Exel Transportation Services (ETS) in 2004, but with help from the former head of ETS's information-technology department, he accessed ETS's computer system without ETS's authorization through early 2006. In November 2010, Musacchio was indicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C), which makes it a crime if a person " intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access" and thereby " obtains . . . information from any protected computer." (Emphasis added.) He was charged in count 1 with conspiring to commit both types of improper access and in count 23 with making unauthorized access " [o]n or about" November 24, 2005. In a 2012 superseding indictment, count 1 dropped the charge of conspiracy to exceed authorized access, and count 2 changed count 23's date to " [o]n or about" November 23-25, 2005. Musacchio never argued in the trial court that his prosecution violated the 5-year statute of limitations applicable to count 2. See § 3282(a). At trial, the Government did not object when the District Court instructed the jury that § 1030(a)(2)(C) " makes it a crime . . . to intentionally access a computer without authorization and exceed authorized access" (emphasis added), even though the conjunction " and" added an additional element. The jury found Musacchio guilty on [193 L.Ed.2d 644] counts 1 and 2. On appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conspiracy conviction and argued, for the first time, that his prosecution on count 2 was barred by § 3282(a)'s statute of limitations. In affirming his conviction, the Fifth Circuit assessed Musacchio's sufficiency challenge against the charged elements of the conspiracy count rather than against the heightened jury instruction, and it concluded that he had waived his statute-of-limitations defense by failing to raise it at trial.

          Held :

         1. A sufficiency challenge should be assessed against the elements of the charged crime, not against the elements set forth in an erroneous jury instruction. Sufficiency review essentially addresses whether the Government's case was strong enough to reach the jury. A reviewing court conducts a limited inquiry tailored to ensuring that a defendant receives the minimum required by due process: a " meaningful opportunity to defend" against the charge against him and a jury finding of guilt " beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 314-315, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560. It does this by considering only the " legal" question " whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could [136 S.Ct. 712] have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id., at 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560. A reviewing court's determination thus does not rest on how the jury was instructed. The Government's failure to introduce evidence of an additional element does not implicate these principles, and its failure to object to a heightened jury instruction does not affect sufficiency review. Because Musacchio does not dispute that he was properly charged with conspiracy to obtain unauthorized access or that the evidence was sufficient to convict him of the charged crime, the Fifth Circuit correctly rejected his sufficiency challenge. Pp. 5-8.

         2. A defendant cannot successfully raise § 3282(a)'s statute-of-limitations bar for the first time on appeal. Pp. 8-11.

         (a) A time bar is jurisdictional only if Congress has " clearly state[d]" that it is. Sebelius v. Auburn Regional Medical Center, 568 U.S. ___, ___, 133 S.Ct. 817, 819, 184 L.Ed.2d 627,632. Here, the " text, context, and relevant historical treatment" of § 3282(a), Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154, 166, 130 S.Ct. 1237, 176 L.Ed.2d 18, establish that it imposes a nonjurisdictional defense that becomes part of a case only if a defendant raises it in the district court. The provision does not expressly refer to subject-matter jurisdiction or speak in jurisdictional terms. It thus stands in marked contrast to § 3231, which speaks squarely to federal courts' general criminal subject-matter " jurisdiction" and does not " conditio[n] its jurisdictional grant on" compliance with § 3282(a)'s statute of limitations. Id., at 165, 166, 130 S.Ct. 1237, 176 L.Ed.2d 18. The history of § 3282(a)'s limitations bar further confirms that the provision does not impose a jurisdictional limit. See United States v. Cook, 84 U.S. 168, 17 Wall. 168, 181, 21 L.Ed. 538; Smith v. United States, 568 U.S. ___, ___, 133 S.Ct. 714, 720, 184 L.Ed.2d 570, 578. Pp. 8-10.

         (b) Because § 3282(a) does not impose [193 L.Ed.2d 645] a jurisdictional limit, the failure to raise the defense at or before trial is reviewable on appeal--if at all--only for plain error. A district court's failure to enforce an unraised limitations defense under § 3282(a) cannot be a plain error, however, because if a defendant fails to press the defense, it does not become part of the case and, thus, there is no error for an appellate court to correct. Pp. 10-11.

         590 Fed.Appx. 359, affirmed.

         Erik S. Jaffe argued the cause for petitioner.

         Roman Martinez argued the cause for respondent.



         In this case, the Government failed to object to a jury instruction that erroneously added an element that it had to prove, [136 S.Ct. 713] and petitioner failed to press a statute-of-limitations defense until his appeal. We address two questions arising from the parties' failures to raise timely challenges. We first consider how a court should assess a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case when a jury instruction adds an element to the charged crime and the Government fails to object. We conclude that the sufficiency of the evidence should be assessed against the elements of the charged crime. We next consider whether the statute-of-limitations ...

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