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U.S. Supreme Court

Armour Packing Co. v. United States, 209 U.S. 56 (1908)

Armour Packing Company v. United States

Nos. 467-470

Argued January 20-22, 1908

Decided March 16, 1908

209 U.S. 56


A device to obtain rebates, to be within the prohibition of the Interstate Commerce Act of March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 857, and the Elkins Act of February 19, 1903, 32 Stat. 847, need not necessarily be fraudulent. The term "device," as used in those statutes, includes any plan or contrivance whereby merchandise is transported for less than the published rate, or any other advantage is given to, or discrimination practiced in favor of, the shipper. chanrobles.com-red

Page 209 U. S. 57

In construing the Elkins Act, it will be read not only in the light of the previous legislation on the same subject, but also of the purpose which Congress had in mind in enacting it -- to require all shippers to be treated alike and to pay one rate as established, published, and posted. New Haven Railroad Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 200 U. S. 361, 200 U. S. 391.

The requirements of § 2 of Art. III of, and of the Sixth Amendment to, the federal Constitution relate to the locality of the offense, and not to the personal presence of the offender.

Transportation of merchandise by a carrier for less than the published rate is, under the Elkins Act, a single continuing offense, continuously committed in each district through which the transportation is conducted at the prohibited rate, and is not a series of separate offenses, and the provision in the law making such an offense triable in any of those districts, confers jurisdiction on the court therein, and does not violate § 2 of Art. III of, or the Sixth Amendment to, the federal Constitution, providing that the accused shall be tried in the state and district where the crime was committed.

The Interstate Commerce Act embraces the whole field of interstate commerce; it does not exempt such foreign commerce as is carried on a through bill of lading, but in terms applies to the transportation of property shipped from any place in the United States to a foreign country and carried from such place to a port of transshipment.

The export and preference clause of the Constitution prohibits burdens only by way of actual taxation and duty, or legislation intending to give, and actually giving, the prohibited preference, and does not prohibit the merely incidental effect of regulations of interstate commerce wholly within the power of Congress, and the fact that such regulations in the Interstate Commerce Act may affect the ports of one state having natural advantages more than those of another state not possessing such advantages does not render the act unconstitutional as violating that provision.

There is no provision in the Elkins Act exempting special contracts from its operation, nor is there any provision for filing and publishing such contracts, and the fact that a contract was at the published rate when made does not legalize it after the carrier has advanced the published rate. The provisions as to rates, being in force in a constitutional act of Congress when the contract is made, are read into the contract and become a part thereof, and the shipper, who is a party to such a contract, takes it subject to any change thereafter made in the rate to which he must conform or suffer the penalty fixed by law.

An indictment which clearly and distinctly charges each and every element of the offense intended to be charged, and which distinctly advises the defendant of what he is to meet at the trial, is sufficient, and so held in this case as to an indictment for accepting rebates prohibited by the Elkins Act, although the details of the device by which the rebates were received were not set out.

While intent is to some extent essential in the commission of crime, and chanrobles.com-red

Page 209 U. S. 58

without determining whether a hipper honestly paying a reduced rate in the belief that it is the published rate is liable under the statute, held that shippers who pay such a rate with full knowledge of the published rate, and contend that they have a right so to do, commit the offense prohibited by the Elkins Act and are subject to the penalties provided therein, even though their contention be a mistake of law.

153 F. 1 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 209 U. S. 66


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