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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. One Ford Coupe Automobile, 272 U.S. 321 (1926)

United States v. One Ford Coupe Automobile

No. 115

Argued December 9, 1925

Reargued October 19, 20, 1926

Decided November 22, 1926

272 U.S. 321


1. Where property declared by a federal statute to be forfeited because used in violation of federal law is seized by one having no authority to do so, the United States may adopt the seizure with the same effect as if it had originally been made by one duly authorized. P. 272 U. S. 325.

2. An automobile, seized while being used for the purpose of depositing or concealing tax unpaid illicit liquors with intent to defraud the United States of the taxes imposed thereon, is forfeitable under Rev.Stats. § 3450, and the interests of innocent persons in the vehicle are thereby divested. P. 272 U. S. 325.

3. Intoxicating liquor, though made for beverage purposes in violation of the National Prohibition Act, is subject to tax. Supplementary Prohibition Act of Nov. 23, 1921, considered, and Revenue Act of 1921. P. 272 U. S. 326. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 272 U. S. 322

4. The basic tax of $2.20 per gallon imposed by the Revenue Acts on liquor illegally produced is not to be treated as a penalty, but is a tax within the meaning of Rev.Stats. § 3450, and, being unpaid, makes that section applicable even if the additional amounts imposed by the Acts were deemed penalties. P. 272 U. S. 328.

5. There is no constitutional objection to enforcing a penalty by forfeiture of an offending article. P. 272 U. S. 329.

6. In a forfeiture proceeding, on certiorari to a judgment quashing the libel on motion of a claimant, the allegations in the claim will not be considered. The allegations of the libel are accepted as true. P. 272 U. S. 329.

7. Under Rev.Stats. § 3450, if the intent to defraud the United States of the tax is established by any competent evidence, a use of the vehicle for the purpose of concealing the liquor suffices, even if the offender obtained it not from a distillery, bonded warehouse, or importer, but from a stranger. P. 272 U. S. 329.

8. Rev.Stats. § 3450, providing that

"Whenever any goods . . . in respect whereof any tax is or shall be imposed . . . are removed, or are deposited or concealed in any place, with intent to defraud the United States of such tax. . . , [every] . . . conveyance whatsoever, . . . used in the removal or for the deposit or concealment thereof, respectively, shall be forfeited,"

is not in conflict with or superseded by § 26 of Title II of the National Prohibition Act, which provides for the seizure and forfeiture, in certain cases, of vehicles used in illegally transporting intoxicating liquors, but saves the interests of innocent persons. P. 272 U. S. 330.

9. In view of § 5 of the Supplemental Prohibition Act, an implied repeal by that Act or the National Prohibition Act of Rev.Stats. § 3450, could not result from mere inconsistency, but must rest upon a direct conflict. P. 272 U. S. 331.

10. Section 26, Title II, of the National Prohibition Act, in its relation to the forfeiture of vehicles, applies only to cases incident to the prosecution of persons transporting liquor in violation of that Act, and does not protect innocent persons whose vehicles are forfeited under Rev.Stats. § 3450. P. 272 U. S. 332.

11. Section 26, supra, applies only where a person is discovered in the act of transporting intoxicating liquor in violation of law. P. 272 U. S. 333.

4 F.2d 528 reversed.

Libel to forfeit an automobile under Rev.Stats. § 345 on the ground of use with intent to defraud the United chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 272 U. S. 323

states of the tax on distilled spirits found therein, by depositing and concealing the liquor. The Garth Motor Company intervened as claimant. A judgment of the district court quashing the libel was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. Certiorari was granted, 268 U.S. 687.

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