United States v. Dixon
347 U.S. 381 (1954)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Dixon, 347 U.S. 381 (1954)

United States v. Dixon

No. 500

Argued March 12, 1954

Decided April 5, 1954

347 U.S. 381

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

Syllabus

Section 3116 of the Internal Revenue Code makes it "unlawful" to possess any property intended for use in violating the provisions of "this part" or the internal revenue laws, and provides for the seizure and forfeiture of such property. Section 3115 of the same "part" makes punishable by fine or imprisonment or both a violation of "any of the provisions of this part" for which no "special penalty" is provided.

Held: read together, §§ 3115 and 3116 make it a criminal offense to possess property intended for use in producing liquor without the payment of taxes thereon in violation of the Code. Pp. 347 U. S. 381-386.

(a) A different result is not required by the facts that § 3115 is applicable only where no "special penalty" is provided for the offense, and § 3116 provides for the seizure and forfeiture of such property. P. 347 U. S. 385.

(b) Nor is a different result required by the fact that § 3116 is captioned "Forfeitures and seizures." Pp. 347 U. S. 385-386.

Reversed.

MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The sole question here is whether §§ 3116 and 3115 of the Internal Revenue Code make it a criminal offense to possess property intended for use in producing nontax-paid distilled spirits in violation of the Code. Appellee

Page 347 U. S. 382

was indicted under these sections for willfully and knowingly possessing 800 pounds of sugar and parts of a still for the proscribed purpose. On motion the District Court, relying on dictum in a court of appeals decision, [Footnote 1] dismissed the indictment on the ground that § 3116 is "preventative and remedial, rather than criminal, and that it does not define a criminal offense." The Government appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3731. 346 U.S. 930.

Section 3116 of the Internal Revenue Code is captioned "Forfeitures and seizures," and provides in pertinent part:

"It shall be unlawful to have or possess any liquor or property intended for use in violating the provisions of this part, or the internal revenue laws . . . and no property rights shall exist in any such liquor or property. . . . Nothing in this section shall in any manner limit or affect any criminal or forfeiture provision of the internal revenue laws, or of any other law. . . ."

The section also provides for search warrants and for procedure in seizure and forfeiture. Section 3115 bears the caption "Penalties," and provides that anyone violating any of the provisions of "this part" for which offense a special penalty is not prescribed "shall be liable, for the first offense, to a penalty of not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding thirty days, or both. . . ." The

Page 347 U. S. 383

two sections are included within the same "part" of the Code. [Footnote 2]

The appellant's position is that § 3115 makes violation of any of the provisions of "this part" a criminal offense punishable by fine and imprisonment; § 3116 contains a provision making it unlawful to possess property intended

Page 347 U. S. 384

for use in violating the provisions of that part or the internal revenue laws; hence, the indictment alleging a violation of §§ 3116 and 3115 by such possession charges a crime. We agree, and so hold. We think the plain language of the two sections, read together, can lead only to the conclusion that the acts proscribed in § 3116 not only may result in forfeiture, but likewise are made criminal and punishable under the general penalty provisions of § 3115.

The sections here involved were borrowed, with changes insignificant for present purposes, from the National Prohibition Act of 1919, 41 Stat. 305 et seq. There the sections appeared as §§ 25 (compare § 3116) and 29 (compare § 3115) of Title II, and presented a statutory pattern virtually identical to the present one. It is most persuasive that the courts consistently upheld criminal prosecutions brought under these sections for the analogous act of possessing property designed for the

Page 347 U. S. 385

manufacture of liquor intended for use in violation of Title II of the Prohibition Act. [Footnote 3]

This consistency of interpretation, followed by Congress' utilization in the Code of the same provisions, is also helpful in dealing with the limitation in § 3115 which makes the penalties of that section applicable only where no "special penalty" is provided for the offense. As a de novo proposition, it might be argued that, in § 3116, a special penalty, forfeiture, is provided. But this argument was available with equal force under the Prohibition Act, and appears to have barred no prosecution. Moreover, § 3116 contains a provision that "Nothing in this section shall in any manner limit or affect any criminal . . . provision of the internal revenue laws." This would seem to settle the point.

Clearly, Congress may impose both a criminal and a civil sanction in respect to the same act; this is neither unusual nor constitutionally objectionable. See Helvering v. Mitchell,303 U. S. 391, 303 U. S. 399

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