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United States v. Cooper

January 26, 2005; as amended February 15, 2005

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SARUN COOPER, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court For the Middle District of Pennsylvania D.C. No.: 03-cr-00226 District Judge: Honorable Christopher C. Conner

Before: Nygaard, Rosenn, and Becker, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosenn, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued: December 14, 2004

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this appeal involving police enforcement of crime control, we are called upon to decide whether the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, 42 U.S.C. § 14135a (2000) (the "DNA Act") requires a defendant convicted of possession of stolen bank funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(c)*fn1 to submit a sample of her DNA to her probation officer. The DNA Act, as enacted, required offenders of certain enumerated crimes to submit a DNA sample to the United States Probation Office for analysis and indexing in a DNA database.*fn2

Cooper, a branch teller at M&T Bank in York, Pennsylvania, purloined nearly $53,000 from the credit lines of bank customers or from fictitious lines of credit that she created for customers. On September 18, 2003, Cooper pled guilty to possession of stolen bank funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(c). As a condition of her probation, Cooper was required to submit a sample of her DNA. Cooper objected on the ground that the plain language of the DNA Act did not, in fact, cover possession of stolen bank funds.

The District Court overruled Cooper's objection and ordered her to submit a DNA sample in accordance with the DNA Act. Cooper timely appealed. Because we conclude that Congress did not intend the DNA Act to encompass a person convicted of possession of stolen bank funds, the order of the District Court will be reversed.

I.

The issue on appeal is whether possession of stolen bank funds as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 2113(c) is a qualifying offense under the DNA Act requiring Cooper to submit a DNA sample. In construing the language of the DNA Act, our review is plenary. Tavarez v. Klingensmith, 372 F.3d 188, 189 n.2 (3d Cir. 2004) ("We exercise plenary review over issues of statutory interpretation.").

It is well settled that "[t]he first step in interpreting a statute is to determine 'whether the language at issue has a plain and unambiguous meaning with regard to the particular dispute in the case.'" Valansi v. Ashcroft, 278 F.3d 203, 209 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Marshak v. Treadwell, 240 F.3d 184, 192 (3d Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted)). "Where the language of the statute is clear... the text of the statute is the end of the matter." Steele v. Blackman, 236 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2001). However, if the language of the statute is unclear, we attempt to discern Congress' intent using the canons of statutory construction. Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, 368 F.3d 218, 222 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 447-48 (1987)). If the tools of statutory construction reveal Congress' intent, that ends the inquiry. Id. (citing Valansi, 278 F.3d at 208 (quoting Bell v. Reno, 218 F.3d 86, 90 (2d Cir. 2000))). If, on the other hand, we are unable to discern Congress' intent using tools of statutory construction, we generally defer to the governmental agency's reasonable interpretation. Id.; see generally, Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43 (1984). With these precepts in mind, we turn to the language of the DNA Act itself to ascertain whether its meaning is plain and unambiguous.

A. Plain Language of the DNA Act

The DNA Act provides in relevant part that individuals on probation who have been convicted of a "qualifying Federal offense" must submit a sample of their DNA to the United ...


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