United States v. One Ford Coach,
307 U.S. 219 (1939)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. One Ford Coach, 307 U.S. 219 (1939)

United States v. One 1936 Model Ford V-8 De Luxe Coach

No. 10

Reargued May 1, 1939

Decided May 22, 1939*

307 U.S. 219


1. Upon the facts, held that claimants for remission of forfeitures of automobiles seized for unlawful transportation of tax unpaid liquors had complied with the conditions imposed by § 204(b) of the Liquor Law Repeal and Enforcement Act of August 27, 1935, and that the courts below properly remitted the forfeitures. Pp. 307 U. S. 224 et seq.

2. A claimant (automobile finance company) who in good faith purchased from a dealer a conditional sale contract covering the sale of an automobile, who believed that the vendee named therein was the real purchaser and owner of the automobile, and who had no knowledge, information or suspicion of facts to the contrary until the car was later seized for violation of the revenue laws, had an "interest in such vehicle . . . acquired in good faith" within § 204(b)(1) of the Liquor Law Repeal and Enforcement Act. P. 307 U. S. 224.

3. Where such claimant, before acquiring such sale contract, investigated the person named therein as purchaser and found that he had no record or reputation for violation of liquor laws, and believed that such person was the real purchaser, and had no knowledge, information, or suspicion that he was merely a "straw" purchaser, this was a sufficient showing under § 204(b)(2) that the claimant had no reason to believe that the car would be used in violation of liquor laws. The contention that, since claimant knew that automobiles were frequently used for violation of liquor laws, he had reason to believe that the car in question would be so used, is rejected. P. 307 U. S. 224.

4. Subsection (b)(3) of § 204 of the Liquor Law Repeal and Enforcement Act does not require, as a condition to remission of forfeiture

Page 307 U. S. 220

by the court, that the claimant shall have investigated at his peril, every person with record or reputation for violating the liquor laws who, in fact, although wholly unsuspected, had acquired some right to the vehicle. The subsection was intended to prevent remission to a claimant who had failed to make inquiry when he should have done so, to one chargeable with willful negligence or purpose of fraud. P. 307 U. S. 235.

5. Forfeitures are not favored; they should be enforced only when within both the letter and the spirit of the law. P. 307 U. S. 226.

93 F.2d 771, 19 F.Supp. 470, affirmed.

99 F.2d 498, 22 F.Supp. 507, affirmed.

Certiorari, 303 U.S. 633, 306 U.S. 625, to review the affirmances of judgments in two cases in which the District Courts ordered remission of forfeitures under the Liquor Law Repeal and Enforcement Act. In No. 10, the judgment below was previously affirmed here by an equally divided Court, 305 U.S. 564; a rehearing was subsequently granted, 305 U.S. 666. No. 627 was assigned for argument immediately following the reargument in No. 10.

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