Published on: Thursday, June 15, 2023

Timothy Smith is an avid fisherman and software engineer who lives in Mobile, Alabama near the Gulf Coast.  He discovered that a private company named Strikezones, headquartered in the Northern District of Florida, was selling geographic coordinates of artificial reefs that individuals create to attract fish.  Irritated that Strikezones was profiting from the work of private reef builders, Smith used some software to secretly obtain tranches of coordinates from Strikezone’s website and made them available to requesters on social media. Smith was indicted and convicted by jury in the Northern District of Florida for theft of trade secrets, over his objection that venue was improper in the Northern District of Florida based on the Constitution's Venue and Vicinage Clauses. He argued venue was improper in the Northern District of Florida because he accessed the data from Mobile (in the Southern District of Alabama) and Strikezone’s servers were in the Middle District of Florida.  On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit agreed that venue was improper, but that the “remedy for improper venue is vacatur of the conviction, not acquittal or dismissal with prejudice,” and that the “Double Jeopardy [C]lause is not implicated by a retrial in a proper venue.”

Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed.  See Smith v. United States, No. 21-1576 (June 15, 2023).  Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the unanimous court, which held:

When a conviction is reversed because of a trial error, this Court has long allowed retrial in nearly all circumstances. We consider in this case whether the Constitution requires a different outcome when a conviction is reversed because the prosecution occurred in the wrong venue and before a jury drawn from the wrong location. We hold that it does not.

The opinion is available here, and briefing on merits is available on the Court’s docket here.