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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Constantine, 296 U.S. 287 (1935)

United States v. Constantine

No. 40

Argued November 14, 1935

Decided December 9, 1935

296 U.S. 287


1. An otherwise valid federal excise tax on the business of selling liquor is not rendered invalid in the particular case by the fact that the business is being conducted in violation of the state law. P. 296 U. S. 293.

2. A provision of the Revenue Act of 1926 imposes in addition to the $25 excise tax laid on retail liquor dealers by R.S., § 3244 a "special excise tax" of $1,000 on such dealers when they carry on the business contrary to local state or municipal law, and provides fine and imprisonment for failure to pay.

Held: chanrobles.com-red

Page 296 U. S. 288

(1) The provision, if regarded as part of the machinery for enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, fell automatically with the repeal of that Amendment. P. 296 U. S. 293.

(2) An exaction which in reality is a penalty cannot be converted into a tax by so naming it; its purpose and operation determine its character. P. 296 U. S. 294.

(3) The additional exaction is not a tax, but penalty for violation of state law. P. 296 U. S. 294.

(4) The effect of the exaction in question is, under the guise of a taxing act, to usurp the police powers of the States. P. 296 U. S. 296.

3. The United States may not impose penalties for infractions of the criminal laws of a State by her own citizens. P. 296 U. S. 296.

4. The Court has no occasion in this case to consider whether the law in question is bad for want of the uniformity of operation required by Art. I, § 8 of the Constitution. P. 296 U. S. 297.

75 F.2d 928 affirmed.

Certiorari, 295 U.S. 730, to review a judgment reversing a conviction and sentence under a criminal information.


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