Bell v. United States, No. 468

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation99 L.Ed. 905,349 U.S. 81,75 S.Ct. 620
Docket NumberNo. 468
Decision Date09 May 1955
PartiesRobert Cecil BELL, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America

349 U.S. 81
75 S.Ct. 620
99 L.Ed. 905
Robert Cecil BELL, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES of America.

No. 468.
Argued April 21, 1955.
Decided May 9, 1955.

Mr. James R. Browning, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Charles F. Barber, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Once more it becomes necessary to determine 'What Congress has made the allowable unit of prosecution,' United States v. Universal C.I.T. Credit Corp., 344 U.S. 218, 221, 73 S.Ct. 227, 229, 97 L.Ed. 260, under a statute which does not explicitly give the answer. This recurring problem now arises under

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what is familiarly known as the Mann Act. The relevant provisions of the Act in its present form are:

'Whoever knowingly transports in interstate or foreign commerce * * * any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose. * * *

'Shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.' § 2 of the Act of June 25, 1910, 36 Stat. 825, 18 U.S.C. § 2421, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2421.

The facts need not detain us long. Petitioner pleaded guilty to violations laid in two counts, each referring to a different woman. Concededly, the petitioner transported the two women on the same trip and in the same vehicle. This was the basis of his claim that he committed only a single offense and could not be subjected to cumulative punishment under the two counts. The District Court rejected this conception of the statute and sentenced the petitioner to consecutive terms of two years and six months on each of the two counts. On appeal from denial of a motion to correct the sentence, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court. 'While the act of transportation was a single one,' it ruled, 'the unlawful purpose must of necessity have been selective and personal as to each of the women involved. * * * We therefore believe that two separate offenses were committed in this case.' 213 F.2d 629, 630. This decision was in accord with decisions of other lower federal courts, but a contrary holding by the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Robinson v. United States, 143 F.2d 276, raised a square conflict for settlement by this Court. This led us to bring the case here. 348 U.S. 895, 75 S.Ct. 223.

The punishment appropriate for the diverse federal offenses is a matter for the discretion of Congress, subject only to constitutional limitations, more particularly the Eighth Amendment. Congress could no doubt make the simultaneous transportation of more than one woman in

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violation of the Mann Act liable to cumulative punishment for each woman so transported. The...

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1046 practice notes
  • Whalen v. United States, No. 78-5471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 1980
    ...S.Ct. 1280, 1283, 2 L.Ed.2d 1405; id., at 394, 78 S.Ct., at 1285 (Warren, C. J., dissenting on statutory grounds); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 82, 75 S.Ct. 620, 621, 99 L.Ed. 905; Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 176, 21 L.Ed. 872; see also Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161, 165, 97 S.Ct. 22......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...28 L.Ed.2d 493 (1971); Ladner v. United States, 358 U.S. 169, Page 69 177, 79 S.Ct. 209, 213, 3 L.Ed.2d 199 (1958); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 75 S.Ct. 620, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955). Indeed, the principle that "ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in fa......
  • United States v. Zirpolo, Cr. A. No. 75-67.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 1, 1968
    ...by the Government to the construction given to the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2421, in this regard is a cogent one. See Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 75 S.Ct. 620, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955) and Guffey v. United States, 310 F.2d 753 (10 Cir. 1962). The Government alleges that the defendant on dat......
  • Schick v. Reed 8212 5677, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 23, 1974
    ...the discretion of Congress, subject only to constitutional limitations, more particularly the Eighth Amendment.' Bell v. United States, 349 U. S. 81, 82, 75 S.Ct. 620, 622, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955). See Ex parte United States, 242 U.S. 27, 42, 37 S.Ct. 72, 74, 61 L.Ed. 129 (1916). The Congress h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1045 cases
  • Whalen v. United States, No. 78-5471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 16, 1980
    ...S.Ct. 1280, 1283, 2 L.Ed.2d 1405; id., at 394, 78 S.Ct., at 1285 (Warren, C. J., dissenting on statutory grounds); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 82, 75 S.Ct. 620, 621, 99 L.Ed. 905; Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 176, 21 L.Ed. 872; see also Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161, 165, 97 S.Ct. 22......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...28 L.Ed.2d 493 (1971); Ladner v. United States, 358 U.S. 169, Page 69 177, 79 S.Ct. 209, 213, 3 L.Ed.2d 199 (1958); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 75 S.Ct. 620, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955). Indeed, the principle that "ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in fa......
  • United States v. Zirpolo, Cr. A. No. 75-67.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 1, 1968
    ...by the Government to the construction given to the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2421, in this regard is a cogent one. See Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81, 75 S.Ct. 620, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955) and Guffey v. United States, 310 F.2d 753 (10 Cir. 1962). The Government alleges that the defendant on dat......
  • Schick v. Reed 8212 5677, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 23, 1974
    ...the discretion of Congress, subject only to constitutional limitations, more particularly the Eighth Amendment.' Bell v. United States, 349 U. S. 81, 82, 75 S.Ct. 620, 622, 99 L.Ed. 905 (1955). See Ex parte United States, 242 U.S. 27, 42, 37 S.Ct. 72, 74, 61 L.Ed. 129 (1916). The Congress h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Warren Court - After Three Terms
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 9-4, December 1956
    • December 1, 1956
    ...348 U.S. 397 (1955); Gonzales v. United States, 348 U.S. 407 (1955); Lewis v. United States, 348 U.S. 419 (1955); Bell v. United States, 349 U.S. 81 (1955); Quinn v. UnitedStates, 349 U.S. 155 (1955); Emspak v. United States, 349 U.S. 190 (1955); and Bartv. United States, 349 U.S. 219 proce......

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