United States v. Balint, No. 480

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtTAFT
Citation42 S.Ct. 301,258 U.S. 250,66 L.Ed. 604
PartiesUNITED STATES v. BALINT et al
Decision Date27 March 1922
Docket NumberNo. 480

258 U.S. 250
42 S.Ct. 301
66 L.Ed. 604
UNITED STATES

v.

BALINT et al.

No. 480.
Argued March 7, 1922.
Decided March 27, 1922.

Page 251

Mr. Wm. C. Herron, of Washington, D. C., for the United states.

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

This is a writ of error to the District Court under the Criminal Appeals Act of March 2, 1907. 34 Stat. 1246 (Comp. St. § 1704). Defendants in error were indicted for a violation of the Narcotic Act of December 17, 1914, 38 Stat. 785, 786 (Comp. St. §§ 6287g-6287q). The indictment charged them with unlawfully selling to another a certain amount of a derivative of opium and a certain amount of a derivative of coca leaves, not in pursuance of any written order on a form issued in blank for that purpose by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, contrary to the provisions of section 2 of the act. (Comp. St. § 6287h). The defendants demurred to the indictment on the ground that it failed to charge that they had sold the inhibited drugs knowing them to be such. The statute does not make such knowledge an element of the offense. The District Court sustained the demurrer and quashed the indictment. The correctness of this ruling is the question before us.

While the general rule at common law was that the scienter was a necessary element in the indictment and proof of every crime, and this was followed in regard to statutory crimes even where the statutory definition did

Page 252

not in terms include it (Rex v. Sleep, 8 Cox, 472), there has been a modification of this view in respect to prosecutions under statutes the purpose of which would be obstructed by such a requirement. It is a question of legislative intent to be construed by the court. It has been objected that punishment of a person for an act in violation of law when ignorant of the facts making it so, is an absence of due process of law. But that objection is considered and overruled in Shevlin-Carpenter Co. v. Minnesota, 218 U. S. 57, 69, 70, 30 Sup. Ct. 663, 666 (54 L. Ed. 930), in which it was held that in the prohibition or punishment of particular acts, the state may in the maintenance of a public policy provide 'that he who shall do them shall do them at his peril and will not be heard to plead in defense good faith or ignorance.' Many instances of this are to be found in regulatory measures in the exercise of what is called the police power where the emphasis of the statute is evidently upon achievement of some social betterment rather than the punishment of the crimes as in cases of mala in se. Commonwealth v. Mixer, 207 Mass. 141, 93 N. E. 249, 31 L. R. A. (N. S.) 467, 20 Ann. Cas. 1152; Commonwealth v. Smith, 166 Mass. 370, 44 N. E. 503; Commonwealth v. Hallett, 103 Mass. 452; People v. Kibler, 106 N. Y. 321, 12 N. E. 795; State v. Kinkead, 57...

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481 practice notes
  • Rehaif v. United States, No. 17-9560
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2019
    ...over and being kicked").We have sometimes declined to read a scienter requirement into criminal statutes. See United States v. Balint , 258 U.S. 250, 254, 42 S.Ct. 301, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922). But we have typically declined to apply the presumption in favor of scienter in cases involving statu......
  • U.S. v. Baytank (Houston), Inc., Nos. 89-2129
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 13, 1991
    ...See Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, 80 S.Ct. 215, 223-27, 4 L.Ed.2d 205 (1959) (Frankfurter, J., concurring); United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 42 S.Ct. 301, 302, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922); United States v. Mullens, 583 F.2d 134, 138 (5th Cir.1978). Accordingly, failure to require specifi......
  • U.S. v. Harris, Nos. 89-3205
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 3, 1992
    ...at his peril' " whether possession is regulated, just as that was required of persons dealing in drugs in United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 42 S.Ct. 301, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922). Freed, 401 U.S. at 609, 91 S.Ct. at 1119-20 (quoting Balint, 258 U.S. at 254, 42 S.Ct. at 303). But this propos......
  • People v. Simon, No. S036981
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 23, 1995
    ...States v. Freed (1971) 401 U.S. 601, 613, 91 S.Ct. 1112, 1120, 28 L.Ed.2d 356 (conc. opn. of Brennan, J.); United States v. Balint (1922) 258 U.S. 250, 252-253, 42 S.Ct. 301, 302-303, 66 L.Ed. 604.) The Supreme Court has indicated that regulatory or "public welfare" offenses which dispense ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
482 cases
  • Rehaif v. United States, No. 17-9560
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2019
    ...over and being kicked").We have sometimes declined to read a scienter requirement into criminal statutes. See United States v. Balint , 258 U.S. 250, 254, 42 S.Ct. 301, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922). But we have typically declined to apply the presumption in favor of scienter in cases involving statu......
  • U.S. v. Baytank (Houston), Inc., Nos. 89-2129
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 13, 1991
    ...See Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147, 80 S.Ct. 215, 223-27, 4 L.Ed.2d 205 (1959) (Frankfurter, J., concurring); United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 42 S.Ct. 301, 302, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922); United States v. Mullens, 583 F.2d 134, 138 (5th Cir.1978). Accordingly, failure to require specifi......
  • U.S. v. Harris, Nos. 89-3205
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 3, 1992
    ...at his peril' " whether possession is regulated, just as that was required of persons dealing in drugs in United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 42 S.Ct. 301, 66 L.Ed. 604 (1922). Freed, 401 U.S. at 609, 91 S.Ct. at 1119-20 (quoting Balint, 258 U.S. at 254, 42 S.Ct. at 303). But this propos......
  • People v. Simon, No. S036981
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 23, 1995
    ...States v. Freed (1971) 401 U.S. 601, 613, 91 S.Ct. 1112, 1120, 28 L.Ed.2d 356 (conc. opn. of Brennan, J.); United States v. Balint (1922) 258 U.S. 250, 252-253, 42 S.Ct. 301, 302-303, 66 L.Ed. 604.) The Supreme Court has indicated that regulatory or "public welfare" offenses which dispense ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Enforcement of Air Pollution Control Laws
    • United States
    • Air pollution control and climate change mitigation law
    • August 18, 2010
    ...Public Welfare Ofenses , 33 Col. L. Rev. 55 (1933). 72. Commonwealth v. Boynton, 2 Allen 160 (Mass. 1861) (intoxicating beverages). 73. 258 U.S. 250 (1922). Criminal Enforcement of Air Pollution Control Laws Page 301 require scienter to be an element of the crime that had to be proven under......
  • General Principles of Criminal Liability
    • United States
    • Environmental crimes deskbook 2nd edition Part Two
    • June 20, 2014
    ...601 (1971), rehearing denied , United States v. Freed, 403 U.S. 912 (1971) (possession of unregistered grenade); United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250 (1922) (possession of narcotics). 62. 402 U.S. at 558. 63. he defendant was prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. §834(f), which made anyone who “knowi......
  • Overcriminalization and the Endangered Species Act: Mens Rea and Criminal Convictions for Take
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 46-6, June 2016
    • June 1, 2016
    ...Times, Nov. 24, 2015. 23. See Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 606 (1994). 24. See id. at 605; see also United States v. Balint, 258 U.S. 250, 251 (1922). 25. See Staples , 511 U.S. at 605; United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 438 U.S. 422, 436-37 (1978); see also Baker & Haun, supra no......
  • Crimes Mala in Se: An Equity-Based Definition
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Policy Review Nbr. 17-3, September 2006
    • September 1, 2006
    ...and minority groupswant from the law and legal institutions? Behavioral Sciences & the Law,19, 215-235.United States v. Balint et al., 258 U.S. 250 (1922).United States v. Kirby,74 U.S. 482 (1932).Utne, M. K., & Hatfield, E. (1978).Equity theory and restitution programming. In B. Galaway & ......

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