March 10 Colloquium: Legal Extraterritoriality and U.S. Coast Guard Drug Interdiction in the Western Hemisphere

Join us for this great cross-over event with KSU Geography this Friday, March 10 from 3:00pm to 4:00pm in McGilvrey room 302!

Mat Coleman, Professor From Ohio State University, will talk about "Legal Extraterritoriality and U.S. Coast Guard Drug Interdiction in the Western Hemisphere."  A description of the presentation is below:

U.S. Court Guard counterdrug operations at sea contradict a core assumption of Westphalian legal territoriality, i.e., that law signifies only within tight and well-defined state boundaries. Indeed, in contrast to a commonplace ‘presumption against extraterritoriality’ in U.S. criminal law, which limits the legal reach of U.S.-based law and law enforcement agencies to the formal legal-territorial boundaries of the U.S., the Coast Guard enforces federal drug laws across a Munroe Doctrine-like expanse of space: a sprawling 7 million square miles of ocean, comprising the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America. This space is more than twice the geographic area of the lower 48 states.

In this presentation we document the legal authority that enables the Coast Guard to search and seize vessels, far outside the U.S., and then charge and prosecute mariners on those vessels with federal drug violations. Rather than a coherent body of ‘interdiction law’, we explore the Coast Guard’s extraterritorial authority as the product of a tangle of unsettled, and oftentimes contradictory, pieces of legislation and court decisions which attempt to rationalize – with varying degrees of success – how it is that individuals in waters formally beyond the territorial limits of the U.S. can be charged with U.S. federal drug violations and brought into the U.S. to face prosecution. Our core take-away is that U.S. Coast Guard authority in the ‘war on drugs’ at sea depends on an ad hoc, after-the-fact, quasi- legal codification of Coast Guard interdiction practices. As a result, we suggest that the oceans subject to the Coast Guard’s search and seizure powers are spaces of legal experimentation where lawmakers and courts scramble to account for the law in relation to interdiction practices – with the aim of ensuring that there is indeed something called ‘interdiction law’ that governs Coast Guard practices at sea, which can then be recoded as law enforcement, i.e., the enforcement of law, rather than as force.

This event is part of the SPCS Spring 2023 Colloquia Series.


POSTED: Thursday, March 09, 2023 10:36 AM
Updated: Monday, March 27, 2023 01:07 PM