United States v. Hawkins (1997) – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Hawkins, 322 U.S. App. D.C. 394, 104 F.3d 437, 439 (D.C. Cir. 1997), Hawkins asserted that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for violation of 21 U.S.C. § 860, "because the Government failed to establish that his conduct occurred within 1,000 feet of an operating school."

Specifically, Hawkins claimed that "the Government must show that he possessed or distributed heroin within 1,000 feet of an actual school, not just a school building that is no longer (or not yet) in use as a school." Id. at 440.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed, stating:

The Congress is understandably concerned with drug dealing where it might attract children, not with its effect upon abandoned or unfinished school buildings. Reading the statute as a whole, therefore, we conclude that the Congress intended to subject drug dealers to enhanced punishment only for conduct occurring within 1,000 feet of an operating school (or other listed facility). Id. at 440-41.

Nevertheless, the Court found that the evidence was sufficient to convict Hawkins, because a reasonable juror could view the testimony of the presence of a school within 1,000 feet of the location of the drug offenses to "refer to an operating school." Hawkins, 104 F.3d at 441.