Duckworth v. State of Arkansas

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation86 L.Ed. 294,138 A.L.R. 1144,62 S.Ct. 311,314 U.S. 390
Docket NumberNo. 43,43
Decision Date15 December 1941

314 U.S. 390
62 S.Ct. 311
86 L.Ed. 294



No. 43.
Argued Nov. 17, 18, 1941.
Decided Dec. 15, 1941.

Messrs. Harold R. Ratcliff, of Memphis, Tenn., and Cecil B. Nance, of Marion, Ark., for appellant.

Page 391

Messrs. Jno. P. Streepey and Leffee Gentry, Asst. Attys. Gen., of Arkansas, for appellee.

Mr. Chief Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant was convicted and fined by an Arkansas court for transporting intoxicating liquor through the state without a permit as required by an Arkansas statute. The question for decision is whether this statutory requirement and its penal sanction unduly encroach upon the power over interstate commerce delegated to Congress.

Page 392

The Arkansas Supreme Court sustained the requirement of the permit as a local police regulation permissible under the commerce clause. 201 Ark. 1123, 148 S.W.2d 656. The case comes here on appeal under the provisions of § 237(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 344(a), §§ 861a, 861b, 28 U.S.C.A. § 344(a), §§ 861a, 861b.

Section 14177, Pope's 1937 Digest of Arkansas Statutes, § 5, Act 109 of 1935, under which appellant was convicted, makes it unlawful for any person to ship into the state any distilled spirits without first having obtained a permit from the state commissioner of revenue. The statute provides that the form of permit and the shipments into the state shall be governed by rules and regulations promulgated by the commissioner. Appellant was tried upon a stipulation of facts which tended to show that when arrested in Arkansas he was engaged in transporting by motor truck, without a permit, a load of distilled spirits from a point in Illinois to a point in Mississippi. The state court held that this violated § 14177. At the time of the offense there were no regulations specifically applicable to transportation passing through the state, the regulations then in force being adapted to transportation for delivery within the state or from point to point within the state.

We have no occasion to decide whether the Arkansas statute, when applied to transportation passing through that state for delivery or use in another, derives support from the Twenty-first Amendment, which prohibits the 'transportation or importation' of intoxicating liquors 'into any State * * * for delivery or use therein' in violation of its laws, cf. United States v. Gudger, 249 U.S. 373, 39 S.Ct. 323, 63 L.Ed. 653. Nor need we decide whether appellant's admission that the transported liquor was intended for importation into Mississippi for illegal use there establishes a violation of the Twenty-first Amendment while he was in Arkansas, so as to deprive him of the right to seek protection of the commerce clause on his journey through Arkansas, cf. McFarland v. American Sugar Refining Co., 241 U.S. 79, 84, 85, 36 S.Ct. 498, 500, 501, 60 L.Ed. 899. We may also assume that appellant's admission no more deprives him of the right to invoke the protection of the

Page 393

commerce clause against the Arkansas statute than did intended violation by the importer of the liquor laws of the state of destination defore the adoption of the Webb-Kenyon Act, 37 Stat. 699, 27 U.S.C.A. § 122, and the Twenty-first Amendment. See Bowman v. Chicago, etc., Ry. Co., 125 U.S. 465, 8 S.Ct. 689, 1062, 31 L.Ed. 700; Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 10 S.Ct. 681, 34 L.Ed. 128. For we are of the opinion that upon principles of constitutional interpretation consistently accepted and followed by this Court ever since the decisions in Willson v. Black Bird Creek Marsh Co., 2 Pet. 245, 7 L.Ed. 412 and Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299, 13 L.Ed. 996, the commerce clause does not foreclose the Arkansas regulation with which we are now concerned.

The commerce here is transportation alone, there being no question of sale or use within the state of regulation. We may therefore put to one side the cases in which local restrictions or prohibitions on sale or use of intoxicating liquor or other articles of commerce, unaided by Acts of Congress, have been deemed a prohibited burden on interstate commerce, see Bowman v. Chicago, etc., Ry. Co., supra; Leisy v. Hardin, supra. The present scheme of regulation is narrower in operation and has a less restrictive effect upon the commerce. It does not forbid the traffic in liquor, nor does it impede it more than is reasonably necessary to inform the local authorities who is to effect the transportation through the state, and to afford opportunity for them to police it.

The Arkansas Supreme Court in this case has declared that under the statute appellant was entitled to a permit on application, which he does not appear to have made; that the permit requirement is in its nature an inspection measure for which only a nominal fee, necessary to defray the cost of issuing it and of police inspection

Page 394

and of necessary reports, is charged.1 It also said that any failure by the state commissioner to act reasonably and promptly in administering the law would be controlled by the courts through mandamus. In a later case, Hardin, Commissioner, v. Spiers, 152 S.W.2d 1010, arising under regulations not in force at the time of appellant's conviction, the same court declared that the commissioner must exercise this power in a reasonable, not an arbitrary manner.

While the commerce clause has been interpreted as reserving to Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce in matters of national importance, that has never been deemed to exclude the states from regulating matters primarily of local concern with respect to which Congress has not exercised its power, even though the regulation has some effect on interstate commerce. As we had occasion to point out at the last term of Court, there are many matters which are appropriate subjects of regulation in the interest of the safety, health and well-being of local communities which, because of their local character and their number and diversity and because of the practical difficulties involved, may never be adequately dealt with by Congress. Because of their local character also there is wide scope for local regulation without impairing the uniformity of control over the commerce in matters of national concern and without materially obstructing the free flow of commerce, which were the principal objects sought to be secured by the commerce Such regulations, in the absence of supervening Congressional action, have for the most part been sustained by this Court,

Page 395

notwithstanding the commerce clause. See California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109, 113, 61 S.Ct. 930, 932, 85 L.Ed. 1219, set seq. and cases cited. See also cases collected in Di Santo v. Pennsylvania, 273 U.S. 34, 39, 40, 47 S.Ct. 267, 269, 270, 71 L.Ed. 524, and in South Carolina Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177, 188, Note 5, and 191, 58 S.Ct. 510, 515, 517, 82 L.Ed. 734.

In the cases referred to the Court has sustained a variety of local regulations designed to safeguard the states from injurious local effects that may attend interstate transportation. Familiar examples are inspection and quarantine laws for the protection of local health and safety, applicable to persons, animals, and merchandise moving in interstate commerce. Again, a state may insure the safe and convenient use of its harbors and navigable waterways by controlling the movement of vessels in interstate and foreign commerce; in the interests of safety it may control the operations of interstate trains and of their employees and appliances.

Of recent years the Court has sustained state regulations of the size and weight of motor cars moving interstate, designed to insure the safe and economical use of the states' highways. South Carolina Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., supra, and cases cited. A state may police 'caravans' of motor vehicles moving over its highways in interstate commerce and charge a compensatory license for for doing it. Morf v. Bingaman, 298 U.S. 407, 56 S.Ct. 756, 80 L.Ed. 1245; Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U.S. 583, 59 S.Ct. 744, 83 L.Ed. 1001. It may, in the interest of public safety and convenience, restrict particular types...

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