OCTOBER TERM, 2008
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
No. 08–108. Argued February 25, 2009—Decided May 4, 2009
A federal statute forbidding “[a]ggravated identity theft” imposes a
mandatory consecutive 2-year prison term on an individual convicted
of certain predicate crimes if, during (or in relation to) the commis-
sion of those other crimes, the offender “
. . . uses, without
a means of identification of another person
U. S. C. §1028A(a)(1) (emphasis added).
After petitioner Flores-
Figueroa, a Mexican citizen, gave his employer counterfeit Social Se-
curity and alien registration cards containing his name but other
people’s identification numbers, he was arrested and charged with
two immigration offenses and aggravated identity theft.
moved for acquittal on the latter charge, claiming that the Govern-
ment could not prove that he
that the documents’ numbers
were assigned to other people.
The District Court agreed with the
Government that the word “knowingly” in §1028A(a)(1) does not mod-
ify the statute’s last three words, “of another person,” and, after trial,
found Flores guilty on all counts.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed.
Section §1028(a)(1) requires the Government to show that the
defendant knew that the means of identification at issue belonged to
another person. As a matter of ordinary English grammar, “know-
ingly” is naturally read as applying to all the subsequently listed
elements of the crime.
Where a transitive verb has an object, listen-
ers in most contexts assume that an adverb (such as “knowingly”)
that modifies the verb tells the listener how the subject performed
the entire action, including the object.
The Government does not
provide a single example of a sentence that, when used in typical
fashion, would lead the hearer to a contrary understanding.
courts ordinarily interpret criminal statutes consistently with the or-
dinary English usage.
, 471 U. S.