Carter v. Commonwealth of Virginia Dickerson v. Same

Decision Date31 January 1944
Docket NumberNos. 134,198,s. 134
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appeals from the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of virginia.

Mr. John S. Battle, of Charlottesville, Va., for appellants Carter and another.

Mr. Warren E. Miller, of Washington, D.C., for appellants Dickerson and others.

Mr. Abram P. Staples, of Richmond, Va., for appellee.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellants were convicted of violations of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Act1 and certain Regulations issued pursuant to it, concerning the transportation of intoxicating liquor through the Commonwealth. Their contention that the pertinent provisions of the Act and Regulations2 violated the Commerce Clause, Article I, Section 8(3), of the Federal Constitution was rejected by Virginia's highest court, the Supreme Court of Appeals. 181 Va. 306, 24 S.E.2d 569; 181 Va. 313, 24 S.E.2d 550. The cases are here on appeals pursuant to Section 237(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 344(a), 28 U.S.C.A. § 344(a).

The Act in question contains a comprehensive scheme for the control of trade in alcoholic beverages within the territory of Virginia. By the statute an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is established and authorized to adopt such regulations 'as it may deem necessary' to confine the transportation of liquor 'to legitimate purposes.'3 The A.B.C. Board promulgated regulations applicable to transportation through Virginia.4 The requirements here in issue are these: (1) The vehicle must use the most direct route and carry a bill of lading showing the route it will travel; (2) The carrier must post a bond in the penal sum of $1,000 conditioned on lawful transportation; and (3) The bill of lading must show the name of the true consignee, and that consignee must have a legal right to receive the beverages at the stated destination.

Both cases reached the Virginia Supreme Court on stipulated facts. In No. 134, it was agreed that Carter and Macemore received 168 gallons of whiskey from a wholesaler in Maryland for transportation to an individual consignee in Thomasville, North Carolina. The appellants were apprehended in Rappahanock County, Virginia, while carrying the whiskey by truck. The appellants themselves did not post a bond, and a bond which was posted by the registered owner of the truck was cancelled because he was reputed to be a bootlegger. Their bill of lading did not show the route to be traversed through Virginia, and the intended delivery to the consignee was forbidden by the laws of North Carolina.

The facts stipulated in No. 198 are similar. Dickerson was arrested in Prince William County, Virginia, while driving a truck carrying more than one gallon of alcoholic beverages. He was traveling by the most direct route from Maryland to his employer-consignee, Page, in North Carolina. Page had posted the required bond, but the bill of lading did not show the route to be traveled, and Page was forbidden by the laws of North Carolina to accept delivery there.

All the individuals involved in the two cases were residents of North Carolina.

The appellants argue, first, that the Twenty-first Amendment gives Virginia no power to prohibit absolutely the shipment of liquor from Maryland to North Carolina through Virginia; second, that its power to regulate such shipments is limited by the Commerce Clause to regulations reasonably necessary to enforce its local liquor laws and not unduly burdensome on interstate commerce; third, that Virginia has no authority to penalize prospective violations of the criminal laws of North Carolina or the United States. It will be observed that the intoxicating liquors in question are intended for continuous shipment through Virginia, so that here, as in the Duckworth case,5 a different question arises from those considered under the Twenty-first Amendment,6 where transportation or importation into a state for delivery or use therein was prohibited. But we may put aside the first and third contentions, for we are satisfied that Virginia may, notwithstanding the Commerce Clause and independently of the Twenty-first Amendment, in order to protect herself from illicit liquor traffic within her borders, subject the shipment of liquor through Virginia to the regulations here in question.

We have recognized that the several states in the absence of Federal legislation may require regulatory licenses for through shipments of liquor in order to guard against violations of their own laws. Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 U.S. 390, 62 S.Ct. 311, 86 L.Ed. 294, 138 A.L.R. 1144. Thus this Court has extended to this very field its recognition that regulation of interstate commerce by local authority in the absence of Congressional action is admissible to protect the state from injuries arising from that commerce. People of State of California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109, 113, 115, 61 S.Ct. 930, 932, 933, 85 L.Ed. 1219, and cases cited; Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U.S. 583, 591, 59 S.Ct. 744, 749, 83 L.Ed. 1001; Morf v. Bingaman, 298 U.S. 407, 410, 56 S.Ct. 756, 757, 80 L.Ed. 1245; Clyde Mallory Lines v. Alabama, 296 U.S. 261, 267, 56 S.Ct. 194, 196, 80 L.Ed. 215. The commerce power of Congress is not invaded by such police regulations as Virginia has here enforced.

The state of transit may compel the carrier to furnish information necessary for checking the shipment against unlawful diversion, and the requirement that the truck follow a direct, stated route is within the rule of Duck- worth v. Arkansas, supra. Similarly, a state may require a reasonable bond of one who wishes to engage in interstate trade of a kind dangerous to well-recognized local interests. People of State of California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109, 61 S.Ct. 930, 85 L.Ed. 1219.

The state court did not pass upon the legality under state or Federal law of the cancellation of the bond in No. 134, since it concluded that only the bondsman, who was not a party to the proceeding, had standing to object under applicable state procedure. As no procedural due process point is raised, we accept its conclusion without further examination. United Gas Co. v. Texas, 303 U.S. 123, 139, 625, 58 S.Ct. 483, 491, 82 L.Ed. 702. It is urged, however, that the Board's power to cancel a bond because of doubts as to the trust-worthiness of the bondsman amounts to an undue burden on interstate commerce.

The bond is to be furnished, according to Section 42 of the Regulations, by the person transporting the liquor. Thus the requirement that the bond be signed by a responsible person appears to raise the same type of question as the requirement that delivery be lawful at the place of consignment, and the two may be considered together. Of the latter rule, the Virginia court said,

'We cannot escape the conclusion that one who deliberately and intentionally violates the Federal Constitution and the law of his resident State, in the unlawful transportation of liquor would hardly hesitate to violate the laws of this State while passing through if he thought he might profit thereby. We cannot shut our eyes to the possibilities of such a situation and the necessity of prevention.' 181 Va. 313, 24 S.E.2d 550, 556.

We are therefore dealing with a case in which Virginia is attempting no more than the enforcement of her own laws; she is not seeking to inflict punishment for the violation of the laws of North Carolina. Whether or not she is entitled thus to enforce her laws must be judged in the light of our long-standing recognition of the exceptional problems involved in successfully regulating trade in intoxicating liquors. James Clark Distilling Co. v. Western Maryland R. Co., 242 U.S. 311, 332, 37 S.Ct. 180, 187, 61 L.Ed. 326, L.R.A. 1917B, 1218, Ann.Cas.1917B, 845; Duckworth v. Arkansas, supra, 314 U.S. at page 396, 62 S.Ct. at page 314, 86 L.Ed. 294, 138 A.L.R. 1144. We do not consider the appellee's suggestion that complete exclusion (and hence these partial restraints) of motor carriers from the through liquor traffic and a limitation of through transit to rail carriers would be consonant with the Commerce Clause. Cf. Ziffrin, Inc., v. Reeves, 308 U.S. 132, 140, 60 S.Ct. 163, 167, 84 L.Ed. 128. Whatever may be the effect of the Twenty-first Amendment, this record presents no problem that may not be resolved under the Commerce Clause alone. That Clause remains in the Constitution as a grant of power to Congress to control commerce and as a diminution pro tanto of absolute state sovereignty over the same subject matter. The Twenty-first Amendment limits that grant of power as to intoxicating liquor by prohibiting 'transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein * * * in violation of the laws thereof.' By interpretation of this Court the Amendment has been held to relieve the states of the limitations of the Commerce Clause on their powers over such transportation or importation.7 It has also been held that shipment through a state is not transportation or importation into the state within the meaning of the Amendment. Collins v. Yosemite Park Co., 304 U.S. 518, 535, 538, 58 S.Ct. 1009, 1017, 1018, 82 L.Ed. 1502. But in the present case we need not consider the power of Virginia under the Twenty-first Amendment to regulate through shipments. It is enough that Virginia could conclude, in the absence of contrary Federal legislation, that she could not safely permit the transportation of liquor through her territory by those who concededly mean to break Federal laws8 and the laws of a neighboring state. By her ruling she has imposed no substantial clog on whatever cognate rights her sister states may have to determine their own policies regarding intoxicating liquors and to receive alcoholic beverages in interstate commerce, if they so desire.

For these reasons the...

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