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Abstract

In Section I of this note, I will lay out the several reasons why 18 U.S.C. § 1651 needs reform. I will provide background information on modern day piracy, including its economic impact, and will then break down varying definitions of piracy and their applications in recent cases. I will explore the split in U.S. case law caused by the application of the UNCLOS definition of piracy in Dire, and will identify the quandaries that result from the UNCLOS definition. In Section II, I will address two specific problems stemming from § 1651 that came to light as a result of Dire: first, the inherent vagueness of §1651, which led to the differing interpretations and thus to the split in U.S. case law; and second, the mandatory life sentence conveyed by § 1651. To address these problems, in Section III, I will briefly provide a description of two possible solutions: judicial intervention and legislative reform. In understanding the need to embrace customary international law, and to progressively expand the law beyond the reach of current international norms, I will conclude that while the Fourth Circuit was correct to use a dynamic interpretation when defining piracy in Dire, a legislative amendment to § 1651 is the best means of addressing the aforementioned concerns.