Caminetti v. United States
242 U.S. 470 (1917)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917)

Caminetti v. United States

Nos. 139, 163, 464

Argued November 13, 14, 1916

Decided January 15, 1917

242 U.S. 470

Syllabus

The White Slave Traffic Act of June 25, 1910, c. 395, 36 Stat. 825, applies to any case in which a woman is transported in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution or concubinage; pecuniary

Page 242 U. S. 471

gain, either as a motive for the transportation or as an attendant of its object, is not an element in the offenses defined.

As so read, the act is constitutional.

When the language of a statute is plain and does not lead to absurd or impracticable results, there is no occasion or excuse for judicial construction; the language must then be accepted by the courts as the sole evidence of the ultimate legislative intent, and the courts have no function but to apply and enforce the statute accordingly.

Statutory words are presumed, unless the contrary appears, to be used in their ordinary sense, with the meaning commonly attributed to them.

When an act provides that it shall be known and referred to by a designated name, the name cannot be made the means of overriding the plain meaning of its other provisions.

The reports of congressional committees may be resorted to by the courts when the legislation to which they relate is doubtful and requires interpretation.

The meaning which this Court had attributed to the words "any other immoral purpose" as used in the act concerning the importation of alien women, Act of February 20, 1907, c. 1134, 34 Stat. 898, 899, Congress must be presumed to have known when it employed the same words in a similar association in the White Slave Traffic Act.

The power of Congress under the commerce clause, including as it does authority to regulate the interstate transporttion of passengers and to keep the channels of interstate commerce free from immoral and injurious uses, enables it to forbid the interstate transportation of women and girls for the immoral purposes of which the petitioners were convicted in these cases.

When an accused person voluntarily testifies in his own behalf and omits to deny or explain incriminating circumstances and events already in evidence in which he participated and concerning which he is fully informed, his silence subjects him to the inferences naturally to be drawn from it, and an instruction to that effect does not violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment or the Act of March 16, 1878, c. 37, 20 Stat. 30.

While it is the better practice in criminal cases for courts to caution juries against too much reliance on the testimony of accomplices and against believing such testimony without corroboration, mere failure to give such an instruction is not reversible error.

220 F. 545, 231 F. 106, affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion.

Page 242 U. S. 482

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