United States v. Laub
385 U.S. 475 (1967)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Laub, 385 U.S. 475 (1967)

United States v. Laub

No. 176

Argued November 16, 1966

Decided January 10, 1967

385 U.S. 475

Syllabus

Appellees were indicted for conspiring to violate § 215(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 by recruiting and arranging the travel to Cuba of 58 United States citizens whose passports, although otherwise valid, were not specifically endorsed for travel to Cuba. Section 215(b) provides that, during wartime or a National emergency, and when the President finds and proclaims that such restrictions are necessary in the national interest,

"it shall . . . be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid passport."

The required finding and proclamation were made on January 17, 1953, and valid passports were thereafter required of United States citizens except when traveling to or from areas exempted by State Department regulations. After diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed on January 3, 1961, a State Department regulation excluded Cuba from Western Hemisphere countries exempted from the passport requirement. On the same day, the Department issued a Public Notice and a press release, declaring outstanding passports invalid for travel to Cuba unless endorsed therefor. Thereafter, appellees allegedly engaged in the charged conspiracy. The District Court dismissed the indictment for failure to state an offense of conspiracy to violate § 215(b). A direct appeal was taken to this Court.

Held: Area restrictions upon the use of an otherwise valid passport are not criminally enforceable under § 215(b). Pp. 385 U. S. 479-487.

(a) "Section 215(b) is a criminal statute. It must therefore be narrowly construed. United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76, 18 U. S. 95-96, 18 U. S. 105 (1820) (Marshall, C. J.)." P. 385 U. S. 480.

(b) As the Government concedes, "Section 215(b) does not, in so many words, prohibit violations of area restrictions. . . ." P. 385 U. S. 480.

(c) "The right to travel is a part of the liberty' of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law. . . ." Kent v. Dulles,357 U. S. 116, 357 U. S. 125 (1958). P. 385 U. S. 481.

Page 385 U. S. 476

(d) "There is no doubt that, with the adoption and promulgation of the Excluding Cuba' regulation, a passport was required for departure from this country for Cuba and for entry into this country from Cuba. Departure for Cuba or entry from Cuba without a passport would be a violation of § 215(b). . . . But it does not follow that travel to Cuba with a passport which is not specifically validated for that country is a criminal offense." P. 385 U. S. 481.

(e) Neither the State Department's Public Notice nor its press release referred to § 215(b) or to criminal sanctions. "On the contrary, the only reference to the statutory base of the announcement . . . is a reference to the nonpenal 1926 Act . . . [which authorizes] the Secretary of State to impose area restrictions. . . ." P. 385 U. S. 482.

(f) The "unbroken tenor of State Department pronouncements on area restrictions," has cast them "exclusively in civil terms, relating to the State Department's safe passage' functions." P. 385 U. S. 483.

(g) "Until these indictments . . . , the State Department had consistently taken the position that there was no statute which imposed or authorized . . . prohibition" of travel in violation of area restrictions. P. 385 U. S. 485.

(h) "The area travel restriction, requiring special validation of passports for travel to Cuba, was a valid civil regulation . . . , [b]ut it was not, and was not intended or represented to be, an exercise of authority under § 215(b). . . ." P. 385 U. S. 487.

253 F. Supp. 433, affirmed.

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