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U.S. Supreme Court

General Motors Acceptance Corp. v. United States, 286 U.S. 49 (1932)

General Motors Acceptance Corp. v. United States

No. 574

Argued April 14, 15, 1932

Decided May 2, 1932*

286 U.S. 49


1 The importation of intoxicating liquors without permit and without payment of customs duties is a violation of the tariff act and a criminal offense thereunder. P. 286 U. S. 56.

Page 286 U. S. 50

2. When the smuggling is by automobile, the driver is subject to prosecution under the tariff act (U.S.C. Title 19, §§ 497, 1593) for the importation and under the National Prohibition Act (Title II, § 29; U.S.C. Title 27, § 46) for the transportation in the United States. P. 286 U. S. 56 et seq.

3. The provisions of Rev.Stats., §§ 3061 and 3062 (U.S.C. Title 19, §§ 482, 483) for forfeiture of vehicles bearing smuggled goods remain in force as part of the existing tariff system, and apply where the merchandise in the vehicle is intoxicating liquor. as well as in other cases. P. 286 U. S. 56.

4. Where intoxicating liquors are smuggled over the boundary into the United States in an automobile, the Government has its election either (a) to seize and forfeit it under the customs laws (R.S., §§ 3061, 3062) for the unlawful importation, in which case the forfeiture may be enforced even against an innocent owner, though the Secretary of the Treasury may remit it, upon such terms as he deems reasonable, if satisfied that there was neither willful negligence nor intent to violate the law ( R.S., § 3078; Tariff Acts of 1922 and 1930, §§ 613, 618); or (b) to seize the vehicle under the Prohibition Act for wrongful transportation (ignoring the importation), in which case the prosecution must proceed on the same basis, and the owner of the vehicle may have whatever protection comes from § 26 of that Act, and may, as of right, reclaim what has been taken if he has acted in good faith. Pp. 286 U. S. 57, 286 U. S. 59.

5. The proposition that § 26 of the Prohibition Act, though aimed only at transportation within the United States, lays down the exclusive rule for forfeiture of vehicles in which intoxicating liquors are unlawfully imported, and therein supersedes the forfeiture provisions of the customs laws, is untenable. Richbourg Motor Co. v. United States, 281 U. S. 528, distinguished. Pp. 286 U. S. 58, 286 U. S. 60.

6. Repeals by implication are not favored, and least of all to the derangement of a statutory system deep rooted in tradition. P. 286 U. S. 61.

Response to questions certified by the court below upon appeals from decrees forfeiting automobiles under the customs laws. The appellants had intervened in the District Court, claiming that the vehicles should be released to them as innocent owners.

Page 286 U. S. 53

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