Williams v. United States

Decision Date01 April 1946
Docket NumberNo. 123,123
Citation327 U.S. 711,90 L.Ed. 962,66 S.Ct. 778
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr.Samuel Slaff, of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Irving S. Shapiro, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case turns upon the applicability of the Assimilative Crimes Act, § 289, Criminal Code, 54 Stat. 234, 18 U.S.C. § 468, 18 U.S.C.A. § 468, which reads: 'Whoever, within the territorial limits of any State, organized Territory, or district, but within or upon any of the places now existing or hereafter reserved or acquired, described in section 272 of the Criminal Code (U.S.C., title 18, sec. 451),1 shall do or omit the doing of any act or thing which is not made penal by any laws of Congress, but which if committed or omitted within the jurisdiction of the State, Terri- tory, or district in which such place is situated, by the laws thereof in force on February 1, 1940, and remaining in force at the time of the doing or omitting the doing of such act or thing, would be penal, shall be deemed guilty of a like offense and be subject to a like punishment.'

The petitioner, a married white man, was convicted in the District Court of the United States for the District of Arizona, of having had sexual intercourse in 1943, within the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona, with an unmarried Indian girl who was then over 16, but under 18, years of age. There was no charge or evidence of use of force by the petitioner or of lack of consent by the girl. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment by a divided court. We granted certiorari under § 240(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 347(a), because of the importance of the case in interpreting the Assimilative Crimes Act.

It is not disputed that this Indian reservation is 'reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, and under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof,'2 or that it is 'Indian country' within the meaning of Rev.Stat. § 2145.3 This means that many sections of the Federal Criminal Code apply to the reservation, including not only the Assimilative Crimes Act, but also those making penal the offenses of rape,4 assault with intent to commit rape,5 having carnal knowledge of a girl,6 adultery7 and fornication.8

While the laws and courts of the State of Arizona may have jurisdiction over offenses committed on this reservation between persons who are not Indians, 9 the laws and courts of the United States, rather than those of Arizona, have jurisdiction over offenses committed there, as in this case, by one who is not an Indian against one who is an Indian.10

The conviction cannot be sustained under the federal definitions of rape or assault with intent to rape, because the federal crime of rape carries with it the requirement of proof of the use of force by the offender and of an absence of consent by the victim. Oliver v. United States, 9 Cir., 230 F. 971. Neither of these elements was charged or proved here. The federal crime of having carnal knowledge of a girl requires proof that she was under 16 years of age at the time of the offense, whereas here the indictment charged merely that she was under 18 and the proof showed that she was between 16 and 18. While the indictment did not state whether or not the petitioner was an Indian or whether or not he was married, the undisputed evidence showed that he was a married white man.

However, the offense charged comes within the statutory definition of 'rape' in § 43-4901 of the Arizona Code.11 That section expands the crime of 'statutory rape' so as to include sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 instead of merely with a girl under 16. Accordingly the question here is whether or not the Assimilative Crimes Act makes this section applicable to Indian reservations in Arizona. The question extends not only to the definition of the offense but also to the punishment prescribed. The Arizona Code fixes the punishment for its violation in those instances where violations would not come within § 279 of the Federal Criminal Code. Under those circumstances, on an Indian reservation in Arizona, the statutory punishment, fixed by § 279 of the Federal Criminal Code, for a man, not an Indian, who had carnal knowledge of an Indian girl under 16, would be imprisonmen for not more than 15 years for the first offense and not more than 30 years for a subsequent offense, with no minimum sentence specified. On the same facts, except that the girl be between 16 and 18, the punishment, fixed by the Arizona Code, would be imprisonment for life or for any term not less than five years. This would impose a more stringent range of punishment including the minimum sentence of five years imposed in this case, upon what Congress in its Criminal Code evidently had treated as a lesser offense.

We hold that the Assimilative Crimes Act does not make the Arizona statute applicable in the present case because (1) the precise acts upon which the conviction depends have been made penal by the laws of Congress defining adultery12 and (2) the offense known to Arizona as that of 'statutory rape' 13 has been defined and prohibited by the Federal Criminal Code,14 and is not to be redefined and enlarged by application to it of the Assimilative Crimes Act. The fact that the definition of this offense as enacted by Congress results in a narrower scope for the offense than that given to it by the State, does not mean that the Con- gressional definition must give way to the State definition. This is especially clear in the present case because the specified acts which would come within the additional scope given to the offense by the State through its postponement of the age of consent of the victim from 16 to 18 years of age, are completely covered by the federal crimes of adultery or fornication.15 The interesting legislative history of the Assimilative Crimes Act16 discloses nothing to indicate that, after Congress has once defined a penal offense, it has authorized such definition to be enlarged by the application to it of a state's definition of it. It has not even been suggested that a conflicting state definition could give a narrower scope to the offense than that given to it by Congress. We believe that, similarly, a conflicting state definition does not enlarge the scope of the offense defined by Congress. The Assimilative Crimes Act has a natural place to fill through its supplementation of the Federal Criminal Code, without giving it the added effect of modifying or repealing existing provisions of the Federal Code.

Where offenses have been specifically defined by Congress and the public has been guided by such definitions for many years, it is not natural for Congress by general legislation to amend such definitions or the punishments prescribed for such offenses, without making clear its intent to do so.17 On the other hand, it is natural for Con- gress from time to time, through renewals of the Assimilative Crimes Act, to use local statutes to fill in gaps in the Federal Criminal Code where no action of Congress has been taken to define the missing offenses.

That the attorneys for the Government have recognized the force of some of these considerations is apparent from the following statement at the close of their brief: 'Congress, of course, was free to fix policy for areas of federal jurisdiction even though it might conflict with local policy, and we think it has done so in respect of the instant situation. These considerations, we think, outweigh the considerations in support of the judgment of the court below.'

The first Federal Crimes Act, approved April 30, 1790, 1 Stat. 112, dealt primarily with subjects over which the Constitution had expressly given jurisdiction to the Federal Government. For example, it dealt with treason, crimes upon the high seas and counterfeiting of securities of the United States. In so far as it related to federal enclaves, it recognized and provided punishment for the offenses of 'wilful murder' and manslaughter if committed 'within any fort, arsenal, dock-yard, magazine, or in any other place or district of country, under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.' § 3, 1 Stat. 113. It contained nothing corresponding directly to the Assimilative Crimes Act.18

On February 10, 1823, James Buchanan, then serving his first term in the House of Representatives, clearly stated the need for the recognition of additional federal crimes. He secured the adoption of a Resolution 'That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to inquire whether there be any, and, if any, what, crimes not now punishable by law, to which punishments ought to be affixed.' Annals of Congress, 17th Cong., 2d Sess. (18221823) 929.19

In the second session of the next Congress,20 Daniel Webster, Chairman of the Committee of the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, sponsored the bill which became the Federal Crimes Act of March 3, 1825. After extended debate,21 Congress expanded the list of enumerated federal crimes. It also added the § 3 which became the basis of the Assimilative Crimes Act of today: '* * * if any offense shall be committed in any of the places aforesaid,22 the punishment of which offense is not specially provided for by any law of the United States, such offense shall, upon a conviction in any court of the United States having cognisance thereof, be liable to, and receive the same punishment as the laws of the state in which such fort, dock-yard, navy-yard, arsenal, armory, or magazine, or other place, ceded as aforesaid, is situated, provide for the like offence when committed within the body of any county of such state.' 4 Stat. 115.

This was amended in 1866, 14 Stat. 13, and in 1874 it was incorporated in the Revised Statutes as § 5391 in substantially its then existing form. For many years it thus referred to an 'offense' which is not prohibited or the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
174 cases
  • People v. Carmen
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • August 17, 1954
    ...242 et seq., 17 S.Ct. 107, 41 L.Ed. 419; United States v. McBratney, 104 U.S. 621, 624, 26 L.Ed. 869; see Williams v. United States, 327 U.S. 711, 714, 66 S.Ct. 778, 90 L.Ed. 962. In People v. Pratt, 26 Cal.App.2d 618, 622-623, 80 P.2d 87, there is language, unnecessary to the decision, to ......
  • Pueblo of Santa Ana v. Hodel
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • May 1, 1987
    ...the ACA should be applied to Indian lands. The only Supreme Court case remotely discussing the issue is Williams v. United States, 327 U.S. 711, 66 S.Ct. 778, 90 L.Ed. 962 (1945) (involving a white man charged with raping an Indian girl on the reservation). However, the Court never directly......
  • United States v. Williams
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • September 18, 2017
    ...that the ACA refers to "generally applicable federal criminal laws." Id. at 1098-99 & n.12 (citing, inter alia, Williams v. United States, 327 U.S. 711, 718-19 (1946); Johnson v. Yellow Cab Transit Co., 321 U.S. 383, 398-401 (1944) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting); United States v. Press Publi......
  • United States v. Sharpnack
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • January 13, 1958
    ...Assimilative Crimes Act where an assimilated state law conflicts with a specific federal criminal statute, cf. Williams v. United States, 327 U.S. 711, 66 S.Ct. 778, 90 L.Ed. 962, or with a federal policy. Cf. Johnson v. Yellow Cab Transit Co., 321 U.S. 383, 64 S.Ct. 622, 88 L.Ed. 814; Stew......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT