Fowler to Impact Fourth Circuit

A recent Supreme Court opinion, Fowler v. United States, issues of a firm rebuke of the Fourth Circuit’s position on the Federal Witness Tampering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C). The Fourth Circuit had been allowing the Government to successfully charge federal witness tampering even in cases in which there was no apparent connection to a “federal offense.” Now, according to SCOTUS, the statute must be interpreted as… well, as it is actually written. That is, “the Government must show that there was a reasonable likelihood that a relevant communication would have been made to a federal officer.”
Although this ruling may not affect a huge number of cases, it is symbolically important because it tightens the reigns on some instances of Government overreaching — ie when the Government brings cases in federal court that really belong in state court.