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U.S. Supreme Court

Street v. Lincoln Safe Deposit Co., 254 U.S. 88 (1920)

Street v. Lincoln Safe Deposit Company

No. 278

Argued April 26, 1920

Decided November 8, 1920

254 U.S. 88


The owner of intoxicating liquors, lawfully acquired, stored them prior to the effective date of the National Prohibition Act in a room leased in a public warehouse, and so kept them thereafter with the intention of using them only for consumption by himself and his family or bona fide guests. It was admitted that they were in his "exclusive possession and control," and the functions of the warehouse owner were merely to protect against fire, theft, etc., and to afford access for lawful purposes. Held: (1) that the warehouse owner might lawfully permit such storage of the liquors to continue after the National Prohibition Act became effective; (2) that the warehouse owner did not "possess" the liquors within the meaning of § 3 of the act, nor would it "deliver" them, in the sense of that section, if it permitted their owner to have access to them to take them to his dwelling for lawful use; (3) nor would it be unlawful under that section to transport the liquors from the place of storage to the home of their owner, under permit from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Pp. 254 U. S. 90 et seq.

The act must be interpreted in the light of the Eighteenth Amendment, which indicates no purpose to confiscate liquors lawfully owned when it became effective and which the owner intended to use in a lawful manner. P. 254 U. S. 90.

The declaration of § 25 of the act that it shall be unlawful "to have or possess any liquor intended for use in violating this title" does not apply to liquors held in storage by their lawful owner solely and in good faith for the purpose of preserving and protecting them until they shall be consumed by the owner and his family or bona fide guests, for that use is declared lawful by § 33. P. 254 U. S. 91.

In § 21, denouncing as a nuisance "any room, house, building, or place where intoxicating liquor is manufactured, sold, kept," etc., the word "kept" means kept for sale or barter or other commercial purposes. Noscitur a sociis. P. 254 U. S. 92. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 254 U. S. 89

An intention to confiscate private property, even in intoxicating liquors, will not be raised by inference and construction from provisions of law which have ample field for other operation in effecting a purpose clearly indicated and declared. P. 254 U. S. 95.

267 F.7d 6 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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