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U.S. Supreme Court

Boyce Motor Lines, Inc. v. United States, 342 U.S. 337 (1952)

Boyce Motor Lines, Inc. v. United States

No. 167

Argued December 4, 1951

Decided January 28, 1952

342 U.S. 337


A regulation promulgated by the Interstate Commerce Commission under 18 U.S.C. § 835 provides that drivers of motor vehicles transporting inflammables or explosives

"shall avoid, so far as practicable, . . . driving into or through congested thoroughfares, places where crowds are assembled, street car tracks, tunnels, viaducts, and dangerous crossings."

Under the statute, "whoever knowingly violates" any such regulation is subject to fine and imprisonment. Petitioner was indicted for having on three separate occasions operated through the Holland Tunnel a truck carrying inflammable carbon bisulphide. The indictment alleged that "there were other available and more practicable routes" for the shipments, and that petitioner "well knew" that the shipments were in violation of the regulation.

Held: the regulation was not void for vagueness, and the District Court should not have dismissed the counts of the indictment based thereon. Pp. 342 U. S. 338-343.

1. No more than a reasonable degree of certainty can be demanded in the language of the prohibition contained in a criminal statute, and it is not unfair to require that one who deliberately goes perilously close to an area of proscribed conduct shall take the risk that he may cross the line. P. 342 U. S. 340.

2. In order to convict, the Government must prove not only that petitioner could have taken another route which was both commercially practicable and appreciably safer, but also that petitioner knew there was such a practicable, safer route and deliberately took the more dangerous route through the tunnel, or that petitioner willfully neglected to inquire into the availability of such an alternative route. Pp. 342 U. S. 342-343.

188 F.2d 889, affirmed.

In a criminal prosecution of petitioner, the District Court, on the ground of the invalidity of the regulation, dismissed the counts of the indictment which were based upon alleged violations of a regulation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. 90 F.Supp. 996. The Court

Page 342 U. S. 338

of Appeals reversed. 188 F.2d 889. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 846. Affirmed, p. 342 U. S. 343.

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