Holding: Since Ahmed Ressam was carrying explosives when he violated 18 U. S. C. § 1001 by feloniously making a false statement to a customs official, he was carrying them "during" the commission of that felony. The most natural reading of Section 844(h)(2) provides a sufficient basis for reversal. It is undisputed that the items in respondent's car were "explosives," and that he was "carr[ying]" those explosives when he knowingly made false statements to a customs official in violation of Section 1001. Dictionary definitions need not be consulted to arrive at the conclusion that he engaged in Section 844(h)(2)'s precise conduct. "[D]uring" denotes a temporal link. Because his carrying of explosives was contemporaneous with his Section 1001 violation, he carried them "during" that violation. The statute's history further supports the conclusion that Congress did not intend a relational requirement in Section 844(h) as presently written.
Judgment: Reversed, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens on May 19, 2008. Justices Scalia and Thomas joined the opinion as to Part I. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Scalia joined. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion.
Merits briefs (via ABA)