242 U.S. 470 (2014), Caminetti v. United States

Citation:242 U.S. 470, 37 S.Ct. 192, 61 L.Ed. 442
Party Name:Caminetti v. United States
Case Date:January 15, 1917
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 470

242 U.S. 470 (2014)

37 S.Ct. 192, 61 L.Ed. 442

Caminetti

v.

United States

United States Supreme Court

January 15, 1917

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The White Slave Traffic Act of June 25, 1910, c. 395, 36 Stat. 825, applies to any case in which a woman is transported in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution or concubinage; pecuniary

Page 471

gain, either as a motive for the transportation or as an attendant of its object, is not an element in the offenses defined.

As so read, the act is constitutional.

When the language of a statute is plain and does not lead to absurd or impracticable results, there is no occasion or excuse for judicial construction; the language must then be accepted by the courts as the sole evidence of the ultimate legislative intent, and the courts have no function but to apply and enforce the statute accordingly.

Statutory words are presumed, unless the contrary appears, to be used in their ordinary sense, with the meaning commonly attributed to them.

When an act provides that it shall be known and referred to by a designated name, the name cannot be made the means of overriding the plain meaning of its other provisions.

The reports of congressional committees may be resorted to by the courts when the legislation to which they relate is doubtful and requires interpretation.

The meaning which this Court had attributed to the words "any other immoral purpose" as used in the act concerning the importation of alien women, Act of February 20, 1907, c. 1134, 34 Stat. 898, 899, Congress must be presumed to have known when it employed the same words in a similar association in the White Slave Traffic Act.

The power of Congress under the commerce clause, including as it does authority to regulate the interstate transporttion of passengers and to keep the channels of interstate commerce free from immoral and injurious uses, enables it to forbid the interstate transportation of women and girls for the immoral purposes of which the petitioners were convicted in these cases.

When an accused person voluntarily testifies in his own behalf and omits to deny or explain incriminating circumstances and events already in evidence in which he participated and concerning which he is fully informed, his silence subjects him to the inferences naturally to be drawn from it, and an instruction to that effect does not violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment or the Act of March 16, 1878, c. 37, 20 Stat. 30.

While it is the better practice in criminal cases for courts to caution juries against too much reliance on the testimony of accomplices and against believing such testimony without corroboration, mere failure to give such an instruction is not reversible error.

220 F. 545, 231 F. 106, affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion.

Page 482

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

These three cases were argued together, and may be disposed of in a single opinion. In each of the cases, there was a conviction and sentence for violation of the so-called White Slave Traffic Act of June 25, 1910, 36 Stat. 825, the judgments were affirmed by the circuit courts of appeals, and writs of certiorari bring the cases here.

In the Caminetti case, the petitioner was indicted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California upon the 6th day of May, 1913, for alleged violations of the act. The indictment was in four counts, the first of which charged him with transporting and causing to be transported, and aiding and assisting in

Page 483

obtaining transportation for a certain woman from Sacramento, California, to Reno, Nevada, in interstate commerce, for the purpose of debauchery, and for an immoral purpose, to-wit, that the aforesaid woman should be and become his mistress and concubine. A verdict of not guilty was returned as to the other three counts of this indictment. As to the first count, defendant was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for eighteen months and to pay a fine of $1,500. Upon writ of error to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, that judgment was affirmed. 220 F. 545.

Diggs was indicted at the same time as was Caminetti, upon six counts, with only four of which are we concerned, inasmuch as there was no verdict upon the last two. The first count charged the defendant with transporting and causing to be transported, and aiding and assisting in obtaining transportation for, a certain woman from Sacramento, California, to Reno, Nevada, for the purpose of debauchery, and for an immoral purpose, to-wit, that the aforesaid woman should be and become his concubine and mistress. The second count charged him with a like offense as to another woman (the companion of Caminetti) in transportation, etc., from Sacramento to Reno, that she might become the mistress and concubine of Caminetti. The third count charged him (Diggs) with procuring a ticket for the first-mentioned woman from Sacramento to Reno in interstate commerce, with the intent that she should become his concubine and mistress. The fourth count made a like charge as to the girl companion of Caminetti. Upon trial and verdict of guilty on these four counts, he was sentenced to imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of $2,000. As in the Caminetti case, that judgment was affirmed by [37 S.Ct. 194] the circuit court of appeals. 220 F. 545.

In the Hays case, upon June 26th, 1914, an indictment

Page 484

was returned in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against Hays and another, charging violations of the act. The first count charged the said defendants with having, on March 17th, 1914, persuaded, induced, enticed, and coerced a certain woman, unmarried and under the age of eighteen years, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to the City of Wichita, Kansas, in interstate commerce and travel, for the purpose and with intent then and there to induce and coerce the said woman, and intending that she should be induced and coerced to engage in prostitution, debauchery, and other immoral practices, and did then and there, in furtherance of such purposes, procure and furnish a railway ticket entitling her to passage over the line of railway, to-wit, the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway, and did then and there and thereby, knowingly entice and cause the said woman to go and to be carried and transported as a passenger in interstate commerce upon said line of railway. The second count charged that, on the same date, the defendants persuaded, induced, enticed, and coerced the same woman to be transported from Oklahoma City to Wichita, Kansas, with the purpose and intent to induce and coerce her to engage in prostitution, debauchery, and other immoral practices at and within the State of Kansas, and that they enticed her and caused her to go and be carried and transported as a passenger in interstate commerce from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Wichita, Kansas, upon a line and route of a common carrier, to-wit: The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway. Defendants were found guilty by a jury upon both counts, and Hays was sentenced to imprisonment for eighteen months. Upon writ of error to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, judgment was affirmed. 231 F. 106.

It is contended that the act of Congress is intended to reach only "commercialized vice," or the traffic in women

Page 485

for gain, and that the conduct for which the several petitioners were indicted and convicted, however reprehensible in morals, is not within the purview of the statute when properly construed in the light of its history and the purposes intended to be accomplished by its enactment. In none of the cases was it charged or proved that the transportation was for gain or for the purpose of furnishing women for prostitution for hire, and it is insisted that, such being the case, the acts charged and proved, upon which conviction was had, do not come within the statute.

It is elementary that the meaning of a statute must, in the first instance, be sought in the language in which the act is framed, and if that is plain, and if the law is within the constitutional authority of the lawmaking body which passed it, the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms. Lake County v. Rollins, 130 U.S. 662, 670-671; Bate Refrigerating Co. v. Sulzberger, 157 U.S. 1, 33; United States v. Lexington Mill & Elevator Co., 232 U.S. 399, 409; United States v. Bank, 234 U.S. 245, 258.

Where the language is plain and admits of no more than one meaning, the duty of interpretation does not arise, and the rules which are to aid doubtful meanings need no discussion. Hamilton v. Rathbone, 175 U.S. 414, 421. There is no ambiguity in the terms of this act. It is specifically made an offense to knowingly transport or cause to be transported, etc., in interstate commerce, any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for "any other immoral purpose," or with the intent and purpose to induce any such woman or girl to become a prostitute or to give herself up to debauchery, or to engage in any other immoral practice.

Statutory words are uniformly presumed, unless the contrary appears, to be used in their ordinary and usual sense, and with the meaning commonly attributed to

Page 486

them. To cause a woman or girl to be transported for the purposes of debauchery, and for an immoral purpose, to-wit, becoming a concubine or mistress, for which Caminetti and Diggs were convicted; or to transport an unmarried woman, under eighteen years of age, with the intent to induce her to engage in prostitution, debauchery, and other...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP