United States v. Jin Fuey Moy

Decision Date05 June 1916
Docket NumberNo. 525,525
Citation241 U.S. 394,60 L.Ed. 1061,36 S.Ct. 658
PartiesUNITED STATES, Plff. in Err., v. JIN FUEY MOY
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Assistant Attorney General Wallace and Mr. W. C. Herron for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 395-396 intentionally omitted] Messrs. H. Ralph Burton, Levi Cooke, George X. McLanahan, and William Strite McDowell for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 397-399 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an indictment under § 8 of the act of December 17, 1914, chap. 1, 38 Stat. at L. 785, 789. It was quashed by the district court on the ground that the statute did not apply to the case. 225 Fed. 1003. The indictment charges a conspiracy with Willie Martin to have in Martin's possession opium and salts thereof, to wit, one dram of morphine sulphate. It alleges that Martin was not registered with the collector of internal revenue of the district, and had not paid the special tax required; that the defendant, for the purpose of executing the conspiracy, issued to Martin a written prescription for the morphine sulphate, and that he did not issue it in good faith, but knew that the drug was not given for medicinal purposes, but for the purpose of supplying one addicted to the use of opium. The question is whether the possession conspired for is within the prohibitions of the act.

The act is entitled, 'An Act to Provide for the Registration of, with Collectors of Internal Revenue, and to Impose a Special Tax Upon, All Persons Who Produce, Import, Manufacture, Compound, Deal in, Dispense, Sell, Distribute, or Give Away Opium or Coca Leaves, Their Salts, Derivatives, or Preparations, and for Other Purposes.' By § 1 the persons mentioned in the title are required to register, and to pay a special tax at the rate of $1 per annum, with certain exceptions, and it is made unlawful for the persons required to register to produce, etc., the drugs without having registered and paid the special tax. All provisions of law relating to special taxes are extended to this tax. By § 2 it is declared unlawful for any person to sell or give away the drugs mentioned without a written order, provided for, excepting deliveries by physicians, etc., or on their order, and certain other cases. Then, after provision for returns, it is made unlawful by § 4 for any person who shall not have registered and paid the special tax to send, carry, or deliver the drugs in such commerce as Congress controls, again with exceptions. By § 6 preparations containing certain small proportions of the drugs are excluded from the operation of the act, under conditions. By § 7 internal revenue tax laws are made applicable, and then comes § 8, under which the indictment is framed.

By § 8 it is declared unlawful for 'any person' who is not registered and has not paid the special tax to have in his possession or control any of the said drugs, and 'such possession or control' is made presumptive evidence of a violation of this section and of § 1. There is a proviso that the section shall not apply to any employee of a registered person and certain others, with qualifications, or to the possession of any of the drugs which have been prescribed in good faith by a physician registered under the act, and to the possession of some others. And finally it is provided that the exemptions need not be negatived in any indictment, etc., and that the burden of proving them shall be upon the defendant. The district judge considered that the act was a revenue act, and that the general words, 'any person,' must be confined to the class of persons with whom the act previously had been purporting to deal. The government, on the other hand, contends that this act was passed with two others in order to carry out the international opium convention (38 Stat. at L. 1929); that Congress gave it the appearance of a taxing measure in order to give it a coating of constitutionality, but that it really was a police measure that strained all the powers of the legislature,...

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