United States v. A. Graf Distilling Company

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

208 U.S. 198

United States  v.  A. Graf Distilling Company

 Argued: December 16, 1907. --- Decided: January 27, 1908

This case comes here on a certificate from the United States circuit court of appeals for the eighth circuit. The proceeding was commenced in the district court of the United States for the eastern district of Missouri, January 4, 1905, by the United States district attorney for that district, who filed therein an amended information, praying for a decree of forfeiture, condemnation, and sale of three barrels of whisky, which had theretofore bees seized by the collector of internal revenue and were still in his possession and custody.

The sole ground for the seizure and forfeiture averred in the information is contained in the following paragraph thereof, as certified by the circuit court of appeals:

'That prior to the times of said seizure of said barrels and packages, they, and each of them, had been purchased and received by A. Graf & Company, they then being stamped, branded, and marked so as to show that the contents thereof were distilled spirits of a certain proof, which had before then been duly inspected by an officer of the revenue, to wit, a United States gauger. That afterwards, and before said seizure, said barrels and packages, and each of them, and the contents therein then contained, were sold to divers persons, each of the barrels and packages at the time of the sales last aforesaid containing things else than the contents which were therein when said barrels and packages were so lawfully stamped, branded, and marked by said officer of the revenue, as aforesaid, to wit, burnt sugar, commonly called caramel, which had been added to and placed in said spirits before said last-mentioned sales thereof, in violation of § 3455 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 2279), whereby and by force of said statute said barrels and packages and all the contents thereof became and are forfeited to the United States.' The claimant, A. Graf Distilling Company, demurred to the information on the ground that it was insufficient in law to authorize a decree of forfeiture.

The demurrer was sustained by the district court, and, the United States declining to plead further, it was adjudged that the barrels of whisky be restored to the claimant.

The ground of the decision of the district court was that the purpose of § 3455 of the Revised Statutes is to prevent the disposition of packages stamped, branded, or marked, when empty, or when containing a taxable substance other than the contents which were therein when they were so lawfully stamped, branded, or marked by an officer of the revenue; and that burnt sugar, or caramel, not being taxable, is not within the meaning of the phrase 'anything else,' as contained in the section referred to.

The circuit court of appeals, in order to a correct determination of the cause, desired the instruction of this court upon the following questions:

'1. Does the sale of a barrel of whisky, stamped, branded, and marked so as to show that the contents have been duly inspected, and that the tax thereon has been paid, into which burnt sugar, or caramel, has been introduced after such stamping, branding, and marking by an officer of the revenue, authorize a seizure and forfeiture thereof to the United States under the provisions of § 3455 of the Revised Statutes of the United States?

'2. Does the phrase 'anything else,' as employed in § 3455 of the Revised Statutes, include substances that are not in themselves taxable under the laws of the United States?'

Section 3455 of the Revised Statutes (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 2279), under which the seizure of the whisky was made, is set forth in the margin. [1]

Assistant Attorney General Cooley for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from page 201 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Warwick M. Hough for the A. Graf Distilling Company

[Argument of Counsel from page 202 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Peckham:after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

Notes[edit]

^1  Sec. 3455. Whenever any person sells, gives, purchases, or receives any box, barrel, bag, vessel, package, wrapper, cover, or envelope of any kind, stamped, branded, or marked in any way so as to show that the contents or intended contents thereof have been duly inspected, or that the tax thereon has been paid, or that any provision of the internal revenue laws has been complied with, whether such stamping, branding, or marking may have been a duly authorized act or may be false and counterfeit, or otherwise without authority of law, said box, barrel, bag, vessel, package, wrapper, cover, or envelope being empty, or containing anything else than the contents which were therein when said articles had been so lawfully stamped, branded, or marked by an officer of the revenue, he shall be liable to a penalty of not less than fifty nor more than five hundred dollars. And every person who makes, manufactures, or produces any box, barrel, bag, vessel, package, wrapper, cover, or envelope, stamped, branded, or marked, as above described, or stamps, brands, or marks the same, as hereinbefore recited, shall be liable to penalty as before provided in this section. And every person who violates the foregoing provisions of this section, with intent to defraud the revenue, or to defraud any person, shall be liable to a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand dollars, or to imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than five years, or to both, at the discretion of the court. And all articles sold, given, purchased, received, made, manufactured, produced, branded, stamped, or marked in violation of the provisions of this section, and all their contents, shall be forfeited to the United States.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).