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    ALSTON v. U.S., 274 U.S. 289 (1927)

    U.S. Supreme Court

    ALSTON v. U.S., 274 U.S. 289 (1927)

    274 U.S. 289

    ALSTON
    v.
    UNITED STATES.
    No. 898.

    Argued April 14, 1927.
    Decided May 16, 1927.

    [274 U.S. 289, 290]   Messrs. Hooper Alexander, of Atlanta, Ga., and Frans E. Lindquist, of Kansas City, Mo., for Alston.

    [274 U.S. 289, 291]   The Attorney General, Massrs. William D. Mitchell, Sol. Gen., and Robert P. Reeder, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for the United States.

    [274 U.S. 289, 292]  

    Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the court.

    In the United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa, an indictment with three counts, filed December 2, 1924, charged Alston with violating section 1, Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act, approved December 17, 1914, 38 Stat. 785, c. 1, as amended by Act February 24, 1919, c. 18, 40 Stat. 1057, 1130, [274 U.S. 289, 293]   1131 (Comp. St. 6287g), by purchasing morphine and cocaine from unstamped packages. He pleaded 'guilty' and was sentenced to the penitentiary. A writ of error took the cause to the Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, and it asked our instruction upon certain question. Thereupon we required the entire record to be sent here for final determination of the whole matter. Section 239, Judicial Code (Comp. St. 1216).

    Sections 1 and 6 of the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act were amended by the Act of February 24, 1919, and, as thus amended, were re-enacted without change by sections 1005 and 1006, Revenue Act approved November 23, 1921, c. 136, 42 Stat. 227, 298, 300 (Comp. St. 6287g, 6287l). The amending act added the following provisions (among others) to section 1:

    Section 9 of the original Harrison Act (Comp. St. 6287o) has remained without change. It provides:

    The judgment of the trial court is assailed upon two grounds: That Congress has failed to prescribe any punishment for the purchase of drugs from unstamped packages, forbidden by amended section 1; and that the entire act, as amended, is invalid because Congress has undertaken thereby to regulate matters beyond its powers and within exclusive control of the states.

    Section 9, above quoted, obviously applies to the requirements of the amended act as well as to those found in the original. The first objection has no merit.

    The present cause arises under those provisions of section 1 which impose a stamp tax on certain drugs and declare it unlawful to purchase or sell them except in or from original stamped packages. These provisions are clearly within the power of Congress to lay taxes and have no necessary connection with any requirement of the act which may be subject to reasonable disputation. They do not absolutely prohibit buying or selling; have produced substantial revenue-contain nothing to indicate that by colorable use of taxation Congress is attempting to invade the reserved powers of the states. The impositions are not penalties.

    The judgment of the trial court must be affirmed.

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