United States v. Sixty-Seven Packages of Dry Goods/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion
Campbell

United States Supreme Court

58 U.S. 85

United States  v.  Sixty-Seven Packages of Dry Goods


This is a writ of error to the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Louisiana.

A libel of information was filed in the district court, by the collector of the port of New Orleans, on behalf of himself and the United States, for the condemnation and forfeiture of sixty-seven packages of goods, on account of an alleged fraud upon the revenue, charging, among other things, in the information, that the goods were entered at the custom-house upon the production of an invoice, in which they were invoiced at a less sum than the actual cost thereof at the place of exportation, with a design to evade the duties.

On the trial, after evidence was given on the part of the libellants tending to prove the facts charged in the information, the court charged the jury, that the 66th section of the duty act of 1799 was repealed by force of subsequent statutes, and that, at present, there was no law in existence providing for a forfeiture of the goods for the causes set forth in the libel. The jury found, accordingly, for the claimant.

This ruling was carried up on error to the circuit court, where the judgment was affirmed.

The 66th section of the act of 1799, so far as it is material in the case, is as follows:--

'That if any goods, wares, or merchandise, of which entry shall have been made in the office of a collector, shall not be invoiced according to the actual cost thereof at the place of exportation, with design to evade the duties thereupon, or any part thereof, all such goods, &c., or the value thereof, to be recovered of the person making the entry, shall be forfeited.'

It was held, in the case of Wood against the United States, 16 Pet. 342, which was an information founded upon this section, that it was then in force, and the property there seized was condemned under it. The goods in that case had been entered at the custom-house in 1839 and 1840. The duty act of 1842, which has since been passed, is supposed to operate a repeal of the section, by implication.

The 19th section of that act is mainly relied on, which is as follows:--

'That if any person shall knowingly and wilfully, with intent to defraud the revenue of the United States, smuggle or clandestinely introduce into the United States, any goods, &c., subject to duty by law, and which should have been invoiced, without paying or accounting for the duty, or shall make out, or pass, or attempt to pass, through the custom-house, any false, forged, or fraudulent invoice, every such person, his, her, or their aiders and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of misdemeanor, &c., punishable by fine and imprisonment.'

The invoice mentioned in the two sections (the 66th and 19th) is a very important document in the entry and passing of goods at the custom-house.

The 36th section of the act of 1799 made it the duty of the person making the entry to produce to the collector the original invoice, in the same state in which it was received; and also, to make oath that it was the true, genuine, and only invoice received, and was in the actual state in which it was received, and that the deponent did not know of any other invoice or account of the goods different from that produced. And the 1st section of the duty act of 1818 further provided, that no goods subject to duty should be admitted to entry, unless the original invoice of the same was presented to the collector. The same provision is found in the 1st section of the act of 1823.

The 4th section of the last act also prescribes the oath substantially like the one in the act of 1799, above referred to, except somewhat enlarged.

The 4th section of the act of 1830, in the case of goods subject to duty, provided, that if any package should be found to contain an article not described in the invoice, the same should be forfeited. This provision is modified by the 21st section of the act of 1842, which saves the forfeiture, if the appraisers shall be of opinion that the omission in the invoice was not with a fraudulent design.

This brief reference to the several acts is sufficient to show the great importance attached to this document, in securing the collection of the proper duties upon foreign importations, and the great care that has been taken to insure the production to the collector of the true, genuine, original one, and that it should be in the actual state and condition in which it was received by the owner, consignee, or agent making the entry.

Now, the 66th section of the act of 1799, dealing with this document, forfeits the goods of the party entered at the custom-house, 'if not invoiced according to the actual cost thereof at the place of exportation, with a design to evade the duties.'

The 19th section of the act of 1842 subjects the party to a misdemeanor, and punishable as such, concerned in making an entry, who, with intent to defraud the revenue, 'shall make out, or pass, or attempt to pass, through the custom-house, any false, forged, or fraudulent invoice.'

The former section has reference to the invoice so far as material to determine the forfeiture, simply with a view to the actual cost of the article at the place of exportation, without regard to the question whether the document itself is the true and genuine one or not. If the goods described in the invoice are invoiced under the cost value, with the design stated, the forfeiture takes place. The object is to prevent frauds upon the revenue in passing goods through the custom-house, by means of this device, at an undervaluation.

The latter provision is different, and has reference to the frauds that may be committed in passing or attempting to pass the goods upon the production of invoices not genuine; not the true, original invoices, but those made out for the occasion with a design to impose upon the collector and other officers.

The acts of 1799 and 1823 sought to prevent this species of fraud, by requiring the production of the original invoice, with the oath of the party superadded, that it was the true, genuine, and the only the received, and in the actual state in which it was received. This, although the party was subjected to the penalty of perjury, in case of false swearing, seems not to have afforded the necessary protection; and the present provision, for the first time, has been enacted, subjecting the person to a misdemeanor who shall, with intent to defraud the revenue, 'make out or pass, or attempt to pass, through the custom-house any false, forged, or fraudulent invoice,' manifestly directed against the production and use of simulated invoices, and those fraudulently made up for the purpose of imposing upon the officers in making the entry.

The whole scope of the section confirms this view. It first makes the smuggling of dutiable goods into the country a misdemeanor; and, secondly, the passing or attempt to pass them through the custom-house, with intent to defraud the revenue, by means of false, forged, or fraudulent invoices; the latter is an offence which, in effect and result, is very much akin to that of smuggling, except done under color of conformity to the law and regulations of the customs.

In the interpretation of our system of revenue laws, which is very complicated, and contains mumerous provisions to guard against frauds by the importers, this court has not been disposed to apply with strictness the rule which repeals a prior statute by implication, where a subsequent one has made provision upon the same subject, and differing in some respect from the former, but have been inclined to uphold both, unless the repugnancy is clear and positive, so as to leave no doubt as to the intent of congress; especially in cases where the new lay may have been auxiliary to and in aid of the old, for the purpose of more effectually guarding against the fraud. This is the doctrine to be found in the case of Wood v. the United States, already referred to, and in several subsequent cases. 3 How. 197; 16 Ib. 150.

It has been supposed that the 8th section of the present act of 1846, which imposes an additional duty of twenty per centum for undervaluation, works a repeal of the 66th section of the act of 1799. But this provision has been part of the revenue system ever since the act of 1818, with the exception of a few years, and has never been understood to have the effect claimed. On the contrary, the section has been regarded as in force, and has been in practical operation during all this time, notwithstanding the imposition of other additional duty. It was so considered in the case of Wood v. The United States. This additional duty is imposed in case the appraised value exceeds the invoice price of the goods ten per centum, irrespective of the question of fraudulent intent. Undoubtedly, if this additional duty has been levied upon the goods by the government, it cannot forfeit them under the 66th section; but, if the collector is satisfied that the undervaluation in the invoice has been made with intent to evade the duties, instead of levying the additional duty, a forfeiture may by declared. It will be observed, also, that the forfeiture may be declared in cases of undervaluation where it is less than ten per centum of the invoice price, provided the fraudulent design exists.

We are satisfied that there is no provision in the act of 1842, or in any of the duty acts, operating as a repeal of the 66th section of the act of 1799, but that it still exists in full force and effect. The judgment of the court below must therefore be reversed, and record remitted for further proceedings, in conformity to this opinion.


This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Louisiana, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered and adjudged by this court, that the judgment of the said circuit court in this cause be and the same is hereby reversed, and that this cause be and the same is hereby remanded to the said circuit court for further proceedings to be had therein in conformity to the opinion of this court.

NotesEdit

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).