H.R. 5231: Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010

H.R. 5231

Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010

September 22, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 5231 is expected to be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This legislation was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) on May 6, 2010, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which took no official action.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5231 would clarify that conspiracy to traffic drugs outside the U.S. is illegal if an act in furtherance of the conspiracy occurs within the U.S.


According to House Committee on Judiciary Republican Staff:


Federal drug laws impose penalties not only for the trafficking and distribution of drugs but also for conspiracy (meetings, negotiations, and arrangements to execute a drug transaction).  In a recent appellate court decision, however, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that federal drug laws do not prohibit conspiracies when the drugs are possessed and distributed outside the U.S., even if conduct in furtherance of the conspiracy occurs inside the U.S. 


In United States v. Lopez-Vanegas, 493 F.3d 1305 (11th Cir. 2007), the government alleged that Lopez-Vanegas and his co-defendant brokered a deal between a Colombian drug trafficking organization and a Saudi Arabian Prince to transport cocaine on the Prince’s airplane from Caracas, Venezuela, to Paris, France, for distribution in Europe.


Various meetings between the defendants, the Colombian drug trafficker and the Saudi prince to plot the drug deal took place in Miami, Florida, over a series of months.  Defendants argued on appeal that their convictions for conspiracy to traffic cocaine from Colombia to Europe could not be sustained because the underlying act itself – transporting drugs from one foreign country to another foreign country – is not a violation of federal drug laws.


A CBO score for H.R. 5231 was not available as of press time.