Wong Tai v. United States, 79

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation71 L.Ed. 545,273 U.S. 77,47 S.Ct. 300
Docket NumberNo. 79,79
Decision Date03 January 1927

273 U.S. 77
47 S.Ct. 300
71 L.Ed. 545



No. 79.
Argued Nov. 24, 1926.
Decided Jan. 3, 1927.
Mr. Marshall B. Woodworth, of San Francisco Cal., for
plaintiff in error.

The Attorney General and Mr. W. D. Mitchell, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., for the United States.

Page 78

Mr. Justice SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error was indicted in the Federal District Court for Northern California under section 37 of the Criminal Code1 (Comp. St. § 10201), for conspiring to commit offenses against the United States in violation of the Opium Act of 1909, as amended in 1914 and 1922.2 He was tried and convicted, and thereupon brought the case here by a direct writ of error under section 238 of the Judicial Code (Comp. St. § 1215), before the amendment made by the Jurisdictional Act of 1925 became effective, as one involving the application of the Constitution and in which the constitutionality of a law of the United States was drawn in question.

The errors assigned and apecified here are that the Opium Act, as amended, is repugnant to the due process and self-incrimination clauses of the Fifth Amendment; that the indictment is invalid under the Sixth Amendment; and that the court erred in overruling a demurrer to the indictment, denying a motion for a bill of particulars and a motion in arrest of judgment, and in its charge to the jury.

1. There was no challenge to the constitutionality of the Opium Act in the District Court. This question was not presented in that court and was neither considered nor determined by it. The objections to the constitutionality of the Act which were set out in the assignment of errors are fully answered in Yee Hem v. United States, 268 U. S. 178, 45 S. Ct. 470, 69 L. Ed. 904, decided after this writ of error had been

Page 79

sued out; and the additional objections set forth for the first time in the brief for the defendant in this Court, do not require consideration here.

2. The case is, however, otherwise brought here under the writ of error, by reason of a challenge which the defendant on the ground the validity of the indictment on the ground that it did not inform him of the 'nature and cause of the accusation' as required by the Sixth Amendment.

The Opium Act, as amended, provides, in section 2(c), being Comp. St. § 8801, that if any person 'receives, conceals, buys, sells, or in any manner facilitates the transportation, concealment, or sale' of any narcotic drug 'after being imported' into the United States, 'knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law,' he shall upon conviction be fined or imprisoned. 42 Stat. 596.

The indictment, which was returned in September, 1924, charged that on or about September 10, 1922, the exact date being to the grand jurors unknown, the defendant, being in the City and County of San Francisco, within the jurisdiction of the court, conspired to commit the acts made offenses by the Opium Act, as amended, that is to say, that at the time and place aforesaid, he knowingly and feloniously conspired and agreed with one Ben Drew and drivers other persons to the grand jurors unknown, to 'knowingly and feloniously receive, conceal, buy, sell and facilitate the transportation and concealment after importation of certain narcotic drugs, to-wit, smoking opium, the said defendant well knowing the said drugs to have been imported into the United States and into the jurisdiction of this Court contrary to law'; that this conspiracy continued throughout all the times after September, 1922, mentioned in the indictment and particularly at the time of the commission of each of the overt acts thereinafter set forth; and that in furtherance of this conspiracy and to effect its object, the defendant,

Page 80

in the City and County of San...

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