United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, No. 64 C 396.

CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
Citation232 F. Supp. 1019
Decision Date20 August 1964
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. ONE 1962 FORD THUNDERBIRD Serial Number 2Y83Z124318, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 64 C 396.

232 F. Supp. 1019

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
ONE 1962 FORD THUNDERBIRD Serial Number 2Y83Z124318, Defendant.

No. 64 C 396.

United States District Court N. D. Illinois, E. D.

August 20, 1964.


232 F. Supp. 1020

Edward V. Hanrahan, U. S. Atty., and Erwin I. Katz, Asst. U. S. Atty., for plaintiff.

Joel M. Carlins, Kovin, Ashen & Carlins, Chicago, Ill., for intervenor, Hotpoint Employees' Credit Union.

WILL, District Judge.

This is a proceeding instituted by a libel seeking forfeiture of the vehicle-defendant pursuant to the provisions of 49 U.S.C. § 782, which provides in relevant part as follows:

"Any vessel, vehicle, or aircraft which has been or is being used in violation of any provision of section 781 of this title, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of said section has taken or is taking place, shall be seized and forfeited: Provided, That no vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by any person as a common carrier in the transaction of business as such common carrier shall be forfeited under the provisions of this chapter unless it shall appear that (1) in the case of a railway car or engine, the owner, or (2) in the case of any other such vessel, vehicle, or aircraft, the owner or the master of such vessel or the owner or conductor, driver, pilot, or other person in charge of such vehicle or aircraft was at the time of the alleged illegal act a consenting party or privy thereto; * * *".

Intervenor, Hotpoint Employees' Credit Union (Credit Union) moves to dismiss the libel, alleging that the statutory provision is unconstitutional.

The following facts are admitted for the purposes of this motion:

(1) Credit Union is the holder of a note, secured by a chattel mortgage on the above-named vehicle.
(2) On September 18, 1962, a lien was duly recorded with the Secretary
232 F. Supp. 1021
of State of Illinois against the motor vehicle title. This lien is still in existence as security for the amount due on the note.
(3) On or about March 21, 1963, the vehicle was seized by the United States on the undisputed allegation that Carlos Aulet, mortgagor and debtor to the Credit Union, used the vehicle for the transportation of narcotics in violation of applicable federal laws.

Credit Union's challenge to the constitutionality of the statute rests on three grounds; first, that it impairs the obligation of a contract, inasmuch as forfeiture will cancel the lien and the chattel mortgage; second, that the statute is vague, indefinite and uncertain in that no provision is made for holders of a security interest; and third, that the statute violates the due process provisions of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution by taking the security interest of innocent lienors without compensation.

The first of these challenges may be disposed of in short order. The contracts clause of the Constitution (Art. I, § 10) is restricted to state action. It is not directed against the federal government. The federal government need only adhere to the due process requirements of the Fifth Amendment. Miller v. Howe Sound Min. Co., 77 F.Supp. 540, 545 (E.D.Wash.1948). No due process argument can be maintained on this ground. A contractual obligation is not impaired by a statute in effect prior to the contract date. Oshkosh Waterworks v. Oshkosh, 187 U.S. 437, 446, 23 S.Ct. 234, 47 L.Ed. 249 (1903). The statute here involved was enacted in 1939, long before Credit Union's contract.

Second, the statute is neither vague, indefinite nor uncertain. If anything, it is the clarity of the statutory language, leaving no room for a construction affording protection to innocent lienors, which raises the question of its constitutionality. As Judge Wilson of the Eastern District of Tennessee has observed, "(t)he laws relating to forfeitures do cause one who is raised in the traditions of the Anglo-American principles of justice and who is committed to the constitutional principles of due process and just compensation to search closely for a constitutional violation." United States v. One 1961 Cadillac Hardtop Automobile, 207 F.Supp. 693, 698 (E. D.Tenn.1962). To be sure, Congress has enacted more explicit statutes, stating unqualifiedly that "no property rights shall exist in any such property", 26 U.S.C. § 7302, United States v. One 1958 Pontiac Coupe, 298 F.2d 421, 422 (7 Cir.1962), just as it has, on occasion, made provisions for innocent lienors in other forfeiture enactments. See, e. g., § 26, National Prohibition Act, 41 Stat. 305, 315; see also, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3615, 3617. Where there has been doubt as to the application of either a forfeiture statute protecting innocent lienors or one which was silent, the Supreme Court has held that the statute protecting innocent lienors should apply. Richbourg Motor Co. v. United States, 281 U.S. 528, 50 S.Ct. 385, 74 L.Ed. 1016 (1930). No such doubt is present here.

It is for Congress to select the language which expresses its legislative judgments. The courts only...

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21 practice notes
  • U.S. v. One 1976 Mercedes Benz 280S, Serial No. 11602012072193, No. Q55-103
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 25 Marzo 1980
    ...v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 680-88, 94 S.Ct. 2080, 2090-94, 40 L.Ed.2d 452 (1974); U. S. v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019, 1021-22 (N.D.Ill.E.D.1964). See also Holmes, The Common Law (1881); Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis, Bk. 1, c. 17, 21; Exodus 21:28. Distr......
  • Fell v. Armour, Civ. A. No. 6367.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee
    • 27 Noviembre 1972
    ...Cir. 1962); United States v. One 1957 Oldsmobile Automobile, 256 F.2d 931 (5th Cir. 1958); United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F. Supp. 1019 (N.D.Ill.1964); United 355 F. Supp. 1332 States v. One 1962 Ford Sedan, 228 F. Supp. 409 (M.D.Fla.1964); United States v. One 1955 Ford Co......
  • Waiste v. State, No. S-8068.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 13 Octubre 2000
    ...and fish ... has always been treated as within the proper domain of the police power...."); United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019, 1022 (N.D.Ill.1964) ("Where Congress, in the implementation of its constitutional powers, provides for penalties such as forfeitures, suc......
  • Iowa Dept. of Transp. v. Nebraska-Iowa Supply Co., NEBRASKA-IOWA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 22 Noviembre 1978
    ...of a police power to which the constitutional requirement of compensation is inapplicable." United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019 (N.D.Ill.). Given the wide and varied scope of the police power, we cannot say that the regulations here are unreasonable or arbitrary, Pe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • U.S. v. One 1976 Mercedes Benz 280S, Serial No. 11602012072193, No. Q55-103
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 25 Marzo 1980
    ...v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 680-88, 94 S.Ct. 2080, 2090-94, 40 L.Ed.2d 452 (1974); U. S. v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019, 1021-22 (N.D.Ill.E.D.1964). See also Holmes, The Common Law (1881); Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis, Bk. 1, c. 17, 21; Exodus 21:28. Distr......
  • Fell v. Armour, Civ. A. No. 6367.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee
    • 27 Noviembre 1972
    ...Cir. 1962); United States v. One 1957 Oldsmobile Automobile, 256 F.2d 931 (5th Cir. 1958); United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F. Supp. 1019 (N.D.Ill.1964); United 355 F. Supp. 1332 States v. One 1962 Ford Sedan, 228 F. Supp. 409 (M.D.Fla.1964); United States v. One 1955 Ford Co......
  • Waiste v. State, No. S-8068.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 13 Octubre 2000
    ...and fish ... has always been treated as within the proper domain of the police power...."); United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019, 1022 (N.D.Ill.1964) ("Where Congress, in the implementation of its constitutional powers, provides for penalties such as forfeitures, suc......
  • Iowa Dept. of Transp. v. Nebraska-Iowa Supply Co., NEBRASKA-IOWA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 22 Noviembre 1978
    ...of a police power to which the constitutional requirement of compensation is inapplicable." United States v. One 1962 Ford Thunderbird, 232 F.Supp. 1019 (N.D.Ill.). Given the wide and varied scope of the police power, we cannot say that the regulations here are unreasonable or arbitrary, Pe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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