United States v. Platt, Cr. No. 7724.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtALLRED
Citation31 F. Supp. 788
Docket NumberCr. No. 7724.
Decision Date06 March 1940
PartiesUNITED STATES v. PLATT et al.

31 F. Supp. 788

UNITED STATES
v.
PLATT et al.

Cr. No. 7724.

District Court, S. D. Texas, Houston Division.

March 6, 1940.


31 F. Supp. 789

Douglas W. McGregor, U. S. Dist. Atty., and George O'Brien John, Asst. U. S. Dist. Atty., both of Houston, Tex., for the Government.

William Z. Rozan, of Houston, Tex., for defendants.

ALLRED, District Judge.

The named defendant, along with two others, is charged by indictment with violation of the Federal Firearms Act, Title 15, Secs. 901(6) and 902(f), U.S.Code, 15 U.S. C.A. §§ 901(6), 902(f), it being alleged that prior to the commission of the instant offense, the defendants had been convicted of crimes of violence (the named defendant having been convicted on July 6, 1933, of the crime of robbery by use of firearms in Jefferson County, Texas); and that on or about November 14, 1939, the defendants "did unlawfully, knowingly and wilfully receive a firearm, to-wit: one Smith & Wesson revolver .38 caliber * * * which firearm had theretofore been shipped and transported by persons to the grand jurors unknown in interstate commerce, that is to say, the said defendants, at the time and place aforesaid, did have in their possession and under their control the said firearm described as aforesaid." (Italics supplied.)

The named defendant moves to quash and demurs to the indictment on two grounds: first, that both sections of the Federal Firearms Act, under which the indictment is brought, are in violation of the due process clause of the Constitution of the United States as set out in the Fifth Amendment; second, that the Statute operates as an ex post facto law in so far as the named defendant is concerned.

First: The applicable portion of the Federal Firearms Act reads as follows:

"Sec. § 902. * * *

"(f) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence or is a fugitive from justice to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, and the possession of a firearm or ammunition by any such person shall be presumptive evidence that such firearm or ammunition was shipped or transported or received, as the case may be, by such person in violation of this chapter."

It will be observed at the outset that the statute making it an offense to receive any firearm which has been shipped, or transported,

31 F. Supp. 790
in interstate commerce is not applicable to all persons, but only to those of a certain class, to-wit: "any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence or is a fugitive from justice."

Defendant makes no attack upon the reasonableness of this classification, or the right of Congress to prohibit the receiving of a firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate commerce by such person. In any event, it would appear that Congress has the right to regulate interstate commerce in this regard since the act forbids the use of such commerce as an agency to promote the spread of well known evils throughout the nation. Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 45 S.Ct. 345, 69 L.Ed. 699, 37 A.L.R. 1407, (sustaining the constitutionality of the motor vehicle theft act. Title 18, Sec. 408, U.S.Code, 18 U.S.C.A. § 408).

The evils sought to be corrected by Congress through the Federal Firearms Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 901 et seq., are well known — the practices of roaming racketeers and predatory criminals who know no state lines — a situation beyond the power of control by local authorities to such an extent as to constitute a national menace. Many of these traveling thugs are ex-convicts, men who have been convicted of crimes of violence and presumably would not hesitate to repeat them. After such a convict has completed his term he is no longer subject to parole or supervision. Even in cases of probation or parole, the records are replete with violations of the conditions imposed, in some instances false reports as to whereabouts and activities being made to the supervising officers. It is but natural for such ex-convicts to cross state lines and put as much distance behind them as possible; especially in cases of former inmates of state prisons. Sec.Record of Hearings on H.R. 9066 before The Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives, 73rd Congress.

The Act has never been construed. It is the outgrowth of a program suggested to Congress by the Attorney General in 1934, resulting in an act approved on June 26, 1934 (48 Stat. 1236-1240, Incl., Tit. 26, U.S. Code, Sec. 1132 et seq., 26 U.S.C.A. § 1132 et seq.), levying a tax upon certain firearms and regulating interstate traffic therein. This act was held to be constitutional and not an invasion of the reserved powers of the state, or violative of the Second Amendment to the Federal Constitution, guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms. United States v. Miller et al., 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206.

Defendant's proposition, as briefed and argued before the Court, is as follows: "The Federal Firearms Statute (U.S.C.A., Title 15, Sec. 901(6), Sec. 902(f),) providing that proof of a prior conviction of a crime of violence, and proof of the defendant's possession of a firearm subsequent to the prior conviction shall constitute prima facie or presumptive evidence that the firearm was shipped, transported, or received in interstate or foreign commerce, constitutes a denial of due process of law as provided for under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States." (Italics supplied.)

Both the defendant and the Government cite the well known line of cases holding that legislation declaring that proof of one fact shall constitute prima facie evidence of the existence of another fact is valid if there is a rational connection between what is proved and what is to be inferred; and that if the presumption is not unreasonable and not made conclusive of the rights of the person against whom raised, it does not constitute a denial of the due process clause; and, conversely, that if the connection is irrational or unreasonable, such a statute does constitute such a denial. Manley v. Georgia, 279 U.S. 1, 49 S.Ct. 215, 73 L.Ed. 575; McFarland v. American Sugar Refining Company, 241 U.S. 79, 36 S.Ct. 498, 60 L.Ed. 899; Hawes v. Georgia, 258 U.S. 1, 42 S.Ct. 204, 66 L.Ed. 431; Casey v. United States, 276 U.S. 413, 48 S.Ct. 373, 72 L.Ed. 632; Morrison v. California, 291 U. S. 82, 54 S.Ct. 281, 78 L.Ed. 664; Bailey v. Alabama, 219 U.S. 219, 31 S.Ct. 145, 55 L. Ed. 191; Mobile J. & K. C. R. Co. v. Turnipseed, 219 U.S. 35, 31 S.Ct. 136, 55 L.Ed. 78, 32 L.R.A.,N.S., 226, Ann.Cas.1912A, 463, etc.

The question is, therefore, in this case: Is there a rational connection between the fact proved (possession of the firearm) and the ultimate fact presumed (that the firearm was shipped, transported, or received in interstate commerce)? And is the inference of transportation or receipt in interstate commerce from the fact of possession so unreasonable as to be purely an arbitrary mandate? These questions are not easy.

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14 practice notes
  • State v. Oliver
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • November 8, 1996
    ...543 (1942), reh'g denied, 317 U.S. 710, 63 S.Ct. 205, 87 L.Ed. 566 (1942); Alaway v. U.S., 280 F.Supp. 326 (C.D.CA.1968); U.S. v. Platt, 31 F.Supp. 788, 793 (D.Ct.Tex.1940); In re Caruso, 10 N.J. 184, 89 A.2d 661 (1952); State v. Phillips, 154 N.J.Super. 112, 380 A.2d 1197 (Law Div.1977), a......
  • United States v. Laurent, No. 11–CR–322.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 2, 2011
    ...situation beyond the power of control by local authorities to such an extent as to constitute a national menace.United States v. Platt, 31 F.Supp. 788, 790 (S.D.Tex.1940) (citing Record of Hearings on H.R. 9066 Before the House Committee on Ways and Means, 73d Congress). Congress enacted th......
  • State v. Kelly, No. 33725.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 1944
    ...so at the source of manufacture at some distant point and have them shipped to him in interstate commerce. United States v. Platt, D.C., 31 F.Supp. 788. Thus the Federal Firearms Act came into being, providing, inter alia, that proof of a prior conviction of a crime of violence and proof of......
  • State v. Kelly, No. 33725.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 1944
    ...so at the source of manufacture at some distant point and have them shipped to him in interstate commerce. United States v. Platt, D.C., 31 F.Supp. 788. Thus the Federal Firearms Act came into being, providing, inter alia, that proof of a prior conviction of a crime of 218 Minn. 269 violenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • State v. Oliver
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • November 8, 1996
    ...543 (1942), reh'g denied, 317 U.S. 710, 63 S.Ct. 205, 87 L.Ed. 566 (1942); Alaway v. U.S., 280 F.Supp. 326 (C.D.CA.1968); U.S. v. Platt, 31 F.Supp. 788, 793 (D.Ct.Tex.1940); In re Caruso, 10 N.J. 184, 89 A.2d 661 (1952); State v. Phillips, 154 N.J.Super. 112, 380 A.2d 1197 (Law Div.1977), a......
  • United States v. Laurent, No. 11–CR–322.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • December 2, 2011
    ...situation beyond the power of control by local authorities to such an extent as to constitute a national menace.United States v. Platt, 31 F.Supp. 788, 790 (S.D.Tex.1940) (citing Record of Hearings on H.R. 9066 Before the House Committee on Ways and Means, 73d Congress). Congress enacted th......
  • State v. Kelly, No. 33725.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 1944
    ...so at the source of manufacture at some distant point and have them shipped to him in interstate commerce. United States v. Platt, D.C., 31 F.Supp. 788. Thus the Federal Firearms Act came into being, providing, inter alia, that proof of a prior conviction of a crime of violence and proof of......
  • State v. Kelly, No. 33725.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 4, 1944
    ...so at the source of manufacture at some distant point and have them shipped to him in interstate commerce. United States v. Platt, D.C., 31 F.Supp. 788. Thus the Federal Firearms Act came into being, providing, inter alia, that proof of a prior conviction of a crime of 218 Minn. 269 violenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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