Carter v. United States
530 U.S. 255 (2000)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1999

Syllabus

CARTER v. UNITED STATES

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

No. 99-5716. Argued April 19, 2000-Decided June 12,2000

Having donned a ski mask and entered a bank, petitioner Carter confronted an exiting customer and pushed her back inside. She screamed, startling others in the bank. Undeterred, Carter ran inside and leaped over a counter and through one of the teller windows. A teller rushed into the manager's office. Meanwhile, Carter opened several teller drawers and emptied the money into a bag. Mter removing almost $16,000, he jumped back over the counter and fled. He was charged with violating 18 U. S. C. § 2113(a), which punishes "[w]hoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes ... any ... thing of value [from a] bank." While not contesting the basic facts, Carter pleaded not guilty on the theory that he had not taken the bank's money "by force and violence, or by intimidation," as § 2113(a) requires. Before trial, he moved for a jury instruction on the offense described by § 2113(b) as a lesser included offense of the offense described by § 2113(a). Section 2113(b) entails less severe penalties than § 2113(a), punishing, inter alia, "[w]hoever takes and carries away, with intent to steal or purloin, any ... thing of value exceeding $1,000 [from a] ... bank." The District Court denied the motion. The jury, instructed on § 2113(a) alone, returned a guilty verdict, pursuant to which the District Court entered judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed.

Held: Because § 2113(b) requires three elements not required by § 2113(a), it is not a lesser included offense of § 2113(a), and petitioner is prohibited as a matter of law from obtaining a lesser included offense instruction on the offense described by §2113(b). Pp.260-274.

(a) In Schmuck v. United States, 489 U. S. 705, 716, this Court held that a defendant who requests a jury instruction on a lesser offense under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 31(c) must demonstrate that the elements of the lesser offense are a subset of the elements of the charged offense. This elements test requires a textual comparison of criminal statutes, which lends itself to certain and predictable outcomes. Id., at 720. Here, the Government contends that three elements required by § 2113(b) are not required by § 2113(a). A "textual comparison" of the elements of the two offenses suggests that the Government is correct. Whereas § 2113(b) requires (1) that the defendant act "with intent to steal or purloin," (2) that the defendant "tak[e] and


256

Syllabus

carr[y] away" the property, and (3) that the property have a "value exceeding $1,000," § 2113(a) contains no such requirements. These extra clauses in subsection (b) cannot be regarded as mere surplusage; they mean something. Potter v. United States, 155 U. S. 438, 446. The Court rejects Carter's assertion that the foregoing application of the elements test is too rigid. Although he is correct that normal principles of statutory construction apply, the Court rejects his claim that such principles counsel a departure here from what is indicated by a straightforward reading of the text. Pp. 260-263.

(b) The Court rejects Carter's arguments pertinent to the general relationship between §§ 2113(a) and (b). His first contention-that it would be anomalous to impose criminal liability on a fence who receives bank property from a § 2113(b) violator, as the text of § 2113(c) plainly provides, but not on a fence who receives such property from a § 2113(a) violator, unless § 2113(b) is a lesser included offense of § 2113(a)-is unpersuasive because the anomaly, if it truly exists, is only an anomaly. It is doubtful that it rises to the level of absurdity. Cf. Green v. Bock Laundry Machine Co., 490 U. S. 504, 509-511, 527. In any event, nothing in § 2113(c) purports to redefine the elements required by the text of §§2113(a) and (b). Although more substantial, Carter's second argument-that, insofar as §§ 2113(a) and (b) are similar to common-law robbery and larceny, the Court must assume that they require the same elements as their common-law predecessors, absent Congress' affirmative indication of an intent to displace the common-law scheme-is also unavailing because the canon on imputing common-law meaning applies only when Congress makes use of a statutory term with established meaning at common law. See, e. g., Morissette v. United States, 342 U. S. 246, 263. Although "robbery" and "larceny" are terms with such meanings, neither term appears in the text of § 2113(a) or § 2113(b). While "robbery" appears in § 2113's title, the title of a statute is of use only when it sheds light on some ambiguous word or phrase in the statute itself. E. g., Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U. S. 206, 212. Carter does not claim that this title illuminates any such ambiguous language. Pp.263-267.

(c) The Court also rejects Carter's specific arguments concerning §2113(b)'s three "extra" elements. pp.267-274.

(i) Carter is mistaken when he argues that an "intent to steal or purloin" requirement must be deemed implicit in § 2113(a) by virtue of this Court's cases interpreting criminal statutes silent as to mens rea to include broadly applicable scienter requirements, see, e. g., United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U. S. 64, 70. The presumption in favor of scienter generally requires a court to read into a statute only that mens rea which is necessary to separate wrongful conduct


257
Full Text of Opinion

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.