1. The Act punishing the transportation of stolen motor vehicles
in interstate or foreign commerce is within the power of Congress.
P. 267 U. S.
2. The third section of this act punishes anyone who transports
or causes to be transported in interstate or foreign commerce a
motor vehicle knowing it to have been stolen, and the fourth
section punishes the acts of receiving, storing, concealing,
disposing of, etc., "any motor vehicle, moving as, or which is a
part of, or which constitutes interstate or foreign commerce,
knowing the same to have been stolen." Held
that § 4 is
constitutional, since its purpose is merely to make more effective
the regulation of § 3, and it applies only where the act of
storing, concealing, etc., is a final step in the use of interstate
(or foreign) transportation to promote the scheme of unlawfully
disposing of the stolen vehicle and of withholding it from its
owner. P. 267 U. S.
3. When the constitutional question upon which a writ of error
from this Court to the district court was founded is decided
Page 267 U. S. 433
the plaintiff in error, nonfederal questions arising in the
record must also be decided. P. 267 U. S.
4. In an indictment charging that defendant knowingly,
unlawfully, and feloniously transported and caused to be
transported in interstate commerce, between places designated, a
touring automobile (stating its value), the property of A, which
said automobile theretofore (stating a time) had been stolen from
A, and that the defendant did not have A's consent to transport it
between the places named, "all of which he," the defendant, "then
and there well knew," the concluding allegation of
is to be applied to the whole narrative
preceding, so that the charge that defendant knew, when he
transported it, that the automobile was stolen is sufficiently
definite. P. 267 U. S.
5. Where a defendant is convicted by a general verdict upon
several counts of an indictment, and is given the same term of
imprisonment under each count, to run concurrently, error in the
court's charge applicable to only one of the counts is not ground
for reversing sentence on the others. P. 267 U. S.
Error to judgment and sentence imposed by the district court for
violation of the "National Motor Vehicle Theft Act."
Page 267 U. S. 435
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a writ of error to the District Court for the District
of South Dakota brought by Rae Brooks to reverse a judgment against
him of conviction under two indictments for violation of the Act of
Congress of October, 1919, and known as the National Motor Vehicle
Theft Act. The writ of error issued under § 238 of the Judicial
Code because the case involves the construction or application of
the Constitution, in that the chief assignment of error is the
invalidity of the Act. The Act became effective October 29, 1919
(41 Stat. 324), and is as follows:
"Chap. 89. -- An act to punish the transportation of stolen
motor vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce. "
Page 267 U. S. 436
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, that this Act may
be cited as the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act."
"Sec. 2. That when used in this Act:"
"(a) The term 'motor vehicle' shall include an automobile,
automobile truck, automobile wagon, motorcycle, or any other
self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails;"
"(b) The term 'interstate or foreign commerce' as used in this
Act shall include transportation from one state, territory, or the
District of Columbia, to another state, territory, or the District
of Columbia, or to a foreign country, or from a foreign country to
any state, territory, or the District of Columbia."
"Sec. 3. That whoever shall transport or cause to be transported
in interstate or foreign commerce a motor vehicle, knowing the same
to have been stolen, shall be punished by a fine of not more than
$5,000, or by imprisonment of not more than five years, or
"Sec. 4. That whoever shall receive, conceal, store, barter,
sell, or dispose of any motor vehicle, moving as, or which is a
part of, or which constitutes interstate or foreign commerce,
knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be punished by a fine
of not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment of not more than five
years, or both."
"Sec. 5. That any person violating this Act may be punished in
any district in or through which such motor vehicle has been
transported or removed by such offender."
The objection to the Act cannot be sustained. Congress can
certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding
and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote
immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the
people of other states from the state of origin. In doing this, it
is merely exercising the police power, for the benefit of the
Page 267 U. S. 437
within the field of interstate commerce. Gloucester Ferry
Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 196
114 U. S. 215
In Reid v. Colorado, 187 U. S. 137
was held that Congress could pass a law excluding diseased stock
from interstate commerce in order to prevent its use in such a way
as thereby to injure the stock of other states. In the Lottery
Case, 188 U. S. 321
was held that Congress might pass a law punishing the transmission
of lottery tickets from one state to another in order to prevent
the carriage of those tickets to be sold in other states, and thus
demoralize, through a spread of the gambling habit, individuals who
were likely to purchase. In the Hipolite Egg Co. v. United
States, 220 U. S. 45
was held that it was within the regulatory power of Congress to
punish the transportation in interstate commerce of adulterated
articles which, if sold in other states from the one from which
they were transported, would deceive or injure persons who
purchased such articles. In Hoke v. United States,
227 U. S. 308
Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.
, the so-called White Slave Traffic Act, which was
construed to punish any person engaged in enticing a woman from one
state to another for immoral ends, whether for commercial purposes
or otherwise, was valid because it was intended to prevent the use
of interstate commerce to facilitate prostitution or concubinage
and other forms of immorality. In Clark Distilling Co. v.
Western Maryland Railway Co., 242 U.
, it was held that Congress had power to forbid
the introduction of intoxicating liquors into any state in which
their use was prohibited in order to prevent the use of interstate
commerce to promote that which was illegal in the state. In
Weber v. Freed, 239 U. S. 325
was held that Congress had power to prohibit the importation of
pictorial representations of prize fights designed for public
exhibition because of the demoralizing effect of such exhibitions
in the state of destination.
Page 267 U. S. 438
In Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.
, it was held that a federal law forbidding the
transportation of articles manufactured by child labor in one state
to another was invalid because it was really not a regulation of
interstate commerce, but a congressional attempt to regulate labor
in the state of origin by an embargo on its external trade.
Articles made by child labor and transported into other states were
harmless, and could be properly transported without injuring any
person who either bought or used them. In referring to the cases
already cited, upon which the argument for the validity of the
Child Labor Act was based, this Court pointed out that, in each of
them, the use of interstate commerce had contributed to the
accomplishment of harmful results to people of other states, and
that the congressional power over interstate transportation in such
cases could only be effectively exercised by prohibiting it. The
clear distinction between authorities first cited and the Child
leaves no doubt where the right lies in this case.
It is known of all men that the radical change in transportation of
persons and goods effected by the introduction of the automobile,
the speed with which it moves, and the ease with which evil-minded
persons can avoid capture have greatly encouraged and increased
crimes. One of the crimes which have been encouraged is the theft
of the automobiles themselves, and their immediate transportation
to places remote from homes of the owners. Elaborately organized
conspiracies for the theft of automobiles and the spiriting them
away into some other state and their sale or other disposition far
away from the owner and his neighborhood have roused Congress to
devise some method for defeating the success of these widely spread
schemes of larceny. The quick passage of the machines into another
state helps to conceal the trail of the thieves, gets the stolen
property into another police jurisdiction,
Page 267 U. S. 439
and facilitates the finding of a safer place in which to dispose
of the booty at a good price. This is a gross misuse of interstate
commerce. Congress may properly punish such interstate
transportation by anyone with knowledge of the theft because of its
harmful result and its defeat of the property rights of those whose
machines against their will are taken into other jurisdictions.
The fourth section merely makes more effective the regulation
contained in the third section. The third section punishes the
transportation of a stolen automobile with knowledge of the theft.
The fourth section punishes the receipt, the concealment, the
storing, the bartering, the sale, or the disposition of such stolen
vehicle moving as interstate commerce or as a part thereof with
knowledge of its having been stolen. Of course, this section can
and does apply only to the storing or concealment of a stolen
automobile with knowledge of its theft as a final step in the use
of interstate transportation to promote the scheme of its unlawful
disposition and the withholding of it from its owner. For these
reasons, we think that §§ 3 and 4 are within the power of
The constitutional question brought this case directly to this
Court. Being here, the other questions arising on the record must
be decided. Pierce v. United States, 252 U.
; Brolan v. United States, 236 U.
It is objected that the counts of the indictments failed to
inform the defendant of the nature and cause of the accusation.
There were two indictments with two counts each. One charged
violation of § 3 in the first count and of § 4 in the second count
as to one automobile. The second indictment made the same charges
as to a second automobile. The charge in one under § 3 was that
defendant "knowingly, unlawfully and feloniously did transport and
cause to be transported in
Page 267 U. S. 440
interstate commerce" from Sioux City, Iowa, to Sioux Falls,
South Dakota, a touring automobile describing it as of $1,000
value, the property of and belonging to one W. C. Wendt of Omaha,
Nebraska, which said automobile theretofore on September 7th, A.D.
1921, had been stolen from Wendt, and that the defendant did not
have the consent of the owner to transport it from Sioux City to
Sioux Falls, "all of which he, the said Rae Brooks, then and there
well knew." The argument is that this does not sufficiently charge
that the defendant knew that the automobile was stolen when he
transported it. We think it does, that it is a reasonable
construction to hold that the last words refer to the whole
The third objection is that there is no evidence of the
defendant's guilt, and that the jury should have been so advised.
We have read the evidence and read the charge of the court. The
charge of the court submitted the issues properly to the jury
except possibly in one respect to which we shall refer.
It appeared that Brooks, the defendant, owned a garage in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota, and that he went to Sioux City, Iowa, and
obtained these two automobiles which had been stolen and
transferred them to Sioux Falls. We cannot say that the
circumstances were not such that a jury might properly infer that
the defendant knew that they were stolen, and had acquired them and
transported them to South Dakota for the purpose of profiting by
the transaction in stolen goods. It is said that there was no
evidence after the cars were stored in Sioux Falls that the
defendant made any effort to secrete, conceal, or store them with
guilty knowledge. It is not necessary for us to examine into this
question or another mooted by the defendant's counsel. He contends
that, under the charge of the court, the jury might have been led
to convict the defendant on the second count in each indictment
Page 267 U. S. 441
on the theory that he became aware of the stolen character of
the cars only after he reached Sioux Falls, and stored them after
he became aware of their stolen character in Sioux Falls. This, he
says, was an erroneous application of the fourth section because,
if his connection with the transportation was innocent, his
subsequent criminal concealment of the stolen property would be
disconnected with interstate commerce and be only a crime against
the state. We do not think it necessary to pass on this question.
for the reason that the verdict of the jury was general, that the
defendant was found guilty on both the counts of each of the two
indictments, and that the defendant was sentenced to 18 months on
each indictment and each count, the sentences to run concurrently.
As the convictions can be sustained on the first count in each
indictment under the verdict, there is no ground for reversing the
case because of error in charging as to the second count.
Claassen v. United States, 142 U.
, 142 U. S. 146
Evans v. United States, 153 U. S. 608
153 U. S. 609
Abrams v. United States, 250 U. S. 616
250 U. S. 619
Pierce v. United States, 252 U. S. 239
252 U. S.
There are some objections made to the form of some questions put
by the district attorney. We do not think they are shown to have
been sufficiently prejudicial to justify a new trial.
The judgment of the district court is