Boyd v. United States

Citation116 U.S. 616,29 L.Ed. 746,6 S.Ct. 524
PartiesBOYD and others, Claimants, etc., v. UNITED STATES. 1 Filed
Decision Date01 February 1886
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

E. B. Smith and S. G. Clarke, for plaintiffs in error.

Sol. Gen. Goode, for defendant in error.


This was an information filed by the district attorney of the United States in the district court for the Southern district of New York, in July, 1884, in a cause of seizure and forfeiture of property, against 35 cases of plate glass, seized by the collector as forfeited to the United States, under the twelfth section of the 'Act to amend the customs revenue laws,' etc., passed June 22, 1874, (18 St. 186.) It is declared by that section that any owner, importer, consignee, etc., who shall, with intent to defraud the revenue, make, or attempt to make, any entry of imported merchandise, by means of any fraudulent or false invoice, affidavit, letter, or paper, or by means of any false statement, written or verbal, or who shall be guilty of any willful act or omission, by means whereof the United States shall be deprived of the lawful duties, or any portion thereof, accruing upon the merchandise, or any portion thereof, embraced or referred to in such invoice, affidavit, letter, paper, or statement, or affected by such act or omission, shall for each offense be fined in any sum not exceeding $5,000 nor less than $50, or be imprisoned for any time not exceeding two years, or both; and, in addition to such fine, such merchandise shall be forfeited.

The charge was that the goods in question were imported into the United States to the port of New York, subject to the payment of duties; and that the owners or agents of said merchandise, or other person unknown, committed the alleged fraud, which was described in the words of the statute. The plaintiffs in error entered a claim for the goods, and pleaded that they did not become forfeited in manner and form as alleged. On the trial of the cause it became important to show the quantity and value of the glass contained in 29 cases previously imported. To do this the district attorney offered in evidence an order made by the district judge under the fifth section of the same act of June 22, 1874, directing notice under seal of the court to be given to the claimants, requiring them to produce the invoice of the 29 cases. The claimants, in obedience to the notice, but objecting to its validity and to the constitutionality of the law, produced the invoice; and when it was offered in evidence by the district attorney they objected to its reception on the ground that, in a suit for forfeiture, no evidence can be compelled from the claimants themselves, and also that the statute, so far as it compels production of evidence to be used against the claimants, is unconstitutional and void. The evidence being received, and the trial closed, the jury found a verdict for the United States, condemning the 35 cases of glass which were seized, and judgment of forfeiture was given. This judgment was affirmed by the circuit court, and the decision of that court is now here for review.

As the question raised upon the order for the production by the claimants of the invoice of the 29 cases of glass, and the proceedings had thereon, is not only an important one in the determination of the present case, but is a very grave question of constitutional law, involving the personal security, and privileges and immunities of the citizen, we will set forth the order at large. After the title of the court and term, it reads as follows, to-wit:

'The United States of America against E. A. B., 1-35, Thirty-five Cases of Plate Glass.

'Whereas, the attorney of the United States for the South- ern district of New York has filed in this court a written motion in the above-entitled action, showing that said action is a suit or proceeding other than criminal, arising under the customs revenue laws of the United States, and not for penalties, now pending undetermined in this court, and that in his belief a certain invoice or paper belonging to and under the control of the claimants herein will tend to prove certain allegations set forth in said written motion, hereto annexed, made by him on behalf of the United States in said action, to-wit, the invoice from the Union Plate Glass Company, or its agents, covering the twenty-nine cases of plate glass marked G. H. B., imported from Liverpool, England, into the port of New York, in the vessel Baltic, and entered by E. A. Boyd & Sons at the office of the collector of customs of the port and collection district aforesaid, on April 7, 1884, on entry No. 47,108:

'Now, therefore, by virtue of the power in the said court vested by section 5 of the act of June 22, 1874, entitled 'An act to amend the customs revenue laws and to repeal moieties,' it is ordered that a notice under the seal of this court, and signed by the clerk thereof, be issued to the claimants, requiring them to produce the invoice or paper aforesaid before this court in the court-rooms thereof in the United States post-office and court-house building in the city of New York on October 16, 1884, at eleven o'clock A. M., and thereafter at such other times as the court shall appoint, and that said United States attorney and his assistants and such persons as he shall designate shall be allowed before the court, and under its direction and in the presence of the attorneys for the claimants, if they shall attend, to make examination of said invoice or paper and to take copies thereof; but the claimants or their agents or attorneys shall have, subject to the order of the court, the custody of such invoice or paper, except pending such examination.'

The fifth section of the act of June 22, 1874, under which this order was made, is in the following words, to-wit:

'In all suits and proceedings other than criminal, arising under any of the revenue laws of the United States, the attorney representing the government, whenever in his belief any business book, invoice, or paper belonging to, or under the control of, the defendant or claimant, will tend to prove any allegation made by the United States, may make a written motion, particularly describing such book, invoice, or paper, and setting forth the allegation which he expects to prove; and thereupon the court in which suit or proceeding is pending may, at its discretion issue a notice to the defendant or claimant to produce such book, invoice, or paper in court, at a day and hour to be specified in said notice, which, together with a copy of said motion, shall be served formally on the defendant or claimant by the United States marshal by delivering to him a certified copy thereof, or otherwise serving the same as original notices of suit in the same court are served; and if the defendant or claimants shall fail or refuse to produce such book, invoice, or paper in obedience to such notice, the allegations stated in the said motion shall be taken as confessed, unless his failure or refusal to produce the same shall be explained to the satisfaction of the court. And if produced the said attorney shall be permitted, under the direction of the court, to make examination (at which examination the defendant or claimant, or his agent, may be present) of such entries in said book, invoice, or paper as relate to or tend to prove the allegation aforesaid, and may offer the same in evidence on behalf of the United States. But the owner of said books and papers, his agent or attorney, shall have, subject to the order of the court, the custody of them, except pending their examination in court as aforesaid.' 18 St. 187.

This section was passed in lieu of the second section of the act of March 2, 1867, entitled 'An act to regulate the disposition of the proceeds of fines, penalties, and forfeitures incurred under the laws relating to the customs, and for other purposes,' (14 St. 547,) which section of said last-mentioned statute authorized the district judge, on complaint and affidavit that any fraud on the revenue had been committed by any person interested or engaged in the importation of merchandise, to issue his warrant to the marshal to enter any premises where any invoices, books, or papers were deposited relating to such merchandise, and take possession of such books and papers and produce them before said judge, to be subject to his order, and allowed to be examined by the collector, and to be subject to his order, and allowed deem necessary. This law being in force at the time of the revision, was incorporated into sections 3091, 3092, 3093, of the Revised Statutes.

The section last recited was passed in lieu of the seventh section of the act of March 3, 1863, entitled 'An act to prevent and punish frauds upon the revenue,' etc. 12 St. 737. The seventh section of this act was in substance the same as the second section of the act of 1867, except that the warrant was to be directed to the collector instead of the marshal. It was the first legislation of the kind that ever appeared on the statute book of the United States, and, as seen from its date, was adopted at a period of great national excitement, when the powers of the government were subjected to a severe strain to protect the national existence. The clauses of the constitution, to which it is contended that these laws are repugnant, are the fourth and fifth amendments. The fourth declares: 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.' The fifth article, among other things, declares that no person 'shall be compelled in any criminal cace to be a witness against himself.' But, produce them. That is so; but it declares is contended that, whatever might have been alleged against the...

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