UNITED STATES V. TURLEY, 352 U. S. 407 (1957)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Turley, 352 U.S. 407 (1957)

United States v. Turley

No. 289

Argued January 24, 1957

Decided February 25, 1957

352 U.S. 407


In the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2312, which makes it a federal crime to transport in interstate or foreign commerce a motor vehicle "knowing the same to have been stolen," the word "stolon" is not limited to takings which amount to common law larceny, but it includes all takings of motor vehicles with a criminal intent to deprive the owner of the rights and benefits of ownership. Pp. 352 U. S. 408-417.

(a) In the absence of a plain indication of an intent to incorporate diverse state laws into a federal criminal statute, the meaning of the federal statute should not be dependent on state law. P. 352 U. S. 411.

(b) Where a federal criminal statute uses a common law term of established meaning without otherwise defining it, the general practice is to give that term its common law meaning; but "stolen" has no accepted common law meaning. Pp. 352 U. S. 411-412.

(c) In these circumstances, the word "stolen" should be given a meaning consistent with the context in which it appears and the purpose of the legislation. Pp. 352 U. S. 412-413.

(d) In the light of the purpose of the Act and its legislative history, the word "stolen" should not be interpreted eo as to limit it to situations which at common law would be considered larceny, but should be interpreted to include all takings with a criminal intent to deprive the owner of the rights and benefits of ownership. Pp. 352 U. S. 413-417.

(e) A different result is not required by the fact that, after 1948, the Department of Justice proposed various clarifying amendments to the Act, and several of these amendments have passed one House of Congress without coming to a vote in the other. P. 415, n 14.

141 F.Supp. 527 reversed and remanded.

Page 352 U. S. 408

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