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McBoyle v. United States

U.S.
Mar 9, 1931
283 U.S. 25 (1931)

Summary

holding National Motor Vehicle Theft Act's definition of "motor vehicle" as "automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motorcycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" did not include airplanes, as each specified vehicle "is a vehicle running on land"

Summary of this case from Schulz v. Bay Area Motivate, LLC

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT.

No. 552.

Argued February 26, 27, 1931. Decided March 9, 1931.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, U.S.C. Title 18, § 408, which punishes whoever transports, or causes to be transported, in interstate or foreign commerce a motor vehicle knowing it to have been stolen, and which defines "motor vehicle" as including "an automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motor cycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails," does not apply to aircraft. P. 26. 43 F.2d 273, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 282 U.S. 835, to review a judgment affirming a conviction under the Motor Vehicle Theft Act.

Mr. Harry F. Brown for petitioner.

Mr. Claude R. Branch, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, with whom Solicitor General Thacher, Assistant Attorney General Dodds and Messrs. Harry S. Ridgely and W. Marvin Smith were on the brief, for the United States.


The petitioner was convicted of transporting from Ottawa, Illinois, to Guymon, Oklahoma, an airplane that he knew to have been stolen, and was sentenced to serve three years' imprisonment and to pay a fine of $2,000. The judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. 43 F.2d 273. A writ of certiorari was granted by this Court on the question whether the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act applies to aircraft. Act of October 29, 1919, c. 89, 41 Stat. 324; U.S. Code, Title 18, § 408. That Act provides: "Sec. 2. That when used in this Act: (a) The term `motor vehicle' shall include an automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motor cycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails; . . . Sec. 3. That whoever shall transport or cause to be transported in interstate or foreign commerce a motor vehicle, knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment of not more than five years, or both."

Section 2 defines the motor vehicles of which the transportation in interstate commerce is punished in § 3. The question is the meaning of the word `vehicle' in the phrase "any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails." No doubt etymologically it is possible to use the word to signify a conveyance working on land, water or air, and sometimes legislation extends the use in that direction, e.g., land and air, water being separately provided for, in the Tariff Act, September 22, 1922, c. 356, § 401(b), 42 Stat. 858, 948. But in everyday speech `vehicle' calls up the picture of a thing moving on land. Thus in Rev. Stats. § 4, intended, the Government suggests, rather to enlarge than to restrict the definition, vehicle includes every contrivance capable of being used "as a means of transportation on land." And this is repeated, expressly excluding aircraft, in the Tariff Act, June 17, 1930, c. 997, § 401(b); 46 Stat. 590, 708. So here, the phrase under discussion calls up the popular picture. For after including automobile truck, automobile wagon and motor cycle, the words "any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" still indicate that a vehicle in the popular sense, that is a vehicle running on land, is the theme. It is a vehicle that runs, not something, not commonly called a vehicle, that flies. Airplanes were well known in 1919, when this statute was passed; but it is admitted that they were not mentioned in the reports or in the debates in Congress. It is impossible to read words that so carefully enumerate the different forms of motor vehicles and have no reference of any kind to aircraft, as including airplanes under a term that usage more and more precisely confines to a different class. The counsel for the petitioner have shown that the phraseology of the statute as to motor vehicles follows that of earlier statutes of Connecticut, Delaware, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri, not to mention the late Regulations of Traffic for the District of Columbia, Title 6, c. 9, § 242, none of which can be supposed to leave the earth.

Although it is not likely that a criminal will carefully consider the text of the law before he murders or steals, it is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed. To make the warning fair, so far as possible the line should be clear. When a rule of conduct is laid down in words that evoke in the common mind only the picture of vehicles moving on land, the statute should not be extended to aircraft, simply because it may seem to us that a similar policy applies, or upon the speculation that, if the legislature had thought of it, very likely broader words would have been used. United States v. Thind, 261 U.S. 204, 209.

Judgment reversed.


Summaries of

McBoyle v. United States

U.S.
Mar 9, 1931
283 U.S. 25 (1931)

holding National Motor Vehicle Theft Act's definition of "motor vehicle" as "automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motorcycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" did not include airplanes, as each specified vehicle "is a vehicle running on land"

Summary of this case from Schulz v. Bay Area Motivate, LLC

holding that the defendant deserved lenity because the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act did not unambiguously apply to stolen airplanes

Summary of this case from Allen v. United States

holding that "any other self-propelled vehicle," when preceded by "automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, and motorcycle" did not include aircraft

Summary of this case from Levine v. Conner

holding that an airplane did not constitute a "motor vehicle" under the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act

Summary of this case from DILK v. DELPH

adopting the meaning assigned to a word "in everyday speech," even though "[n]o doubt etymologically it is possible to use the word to signify" something else

Summary of this case from Mize v. Pompeo

In McBoyle v. United States, 283 U.S. 25, this Court held that a statute making it a federal crime to move a stolen "motor vehicle" in interstate commerce did not apply to a stolen airplane.

Summary of this case from United States v. Standard Oil Co.

refusing to expand a criminal statute’s reach without "a fair warning ... given to the world in language the common world will understand"

Summary of this case from United States v. Fitzgerald

In McBoyle, Justice Holmes famously concluded that the words "any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" did not include airplanes where the more specific words in the statute referred only to vehicles that ran on land.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Golden

In McBoyle v. United States, 283 U.S. 25, 51 S.Ct. 340, 75 L.Ed. 816 (1931), Justice Holmes stated that "in everyday speech `vehicle' calls up a picture of a thing moving on land."

Summary of this case from Certain British Underwriters v. Jet Charter

In McBoyle, Justice Holmes wrote that "[a]lthough it is not likely that a criminal will carefully consider the text of the law before he murders or steals, it is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed."

Summary of this case from United States v. Conigliaro

noting that fair warning should apprise people "in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed"

Summary of this case from United States v. Conigliaro

utilizing the ejusdem generis principle in determining that "automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motor cycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" did not apply to an airplane

Summary of this case from Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Mapp

utilizing the ejusdem generis principle in determining that "automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motor cycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle not designed for running on rails" did not apply to an airplane

Summary of this case from Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Mapp

In McBoyle, the second requirement (the penalty for crossing the line) was undisputed, and thus the only issue before the Court was the first: whether the "line" had been made "clear" by the Congress. The Court concluded that it had not.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Sanchez-Montoya

In McBoyle v. United States, 283 U.S. 25, at page 27, 51 S.Ct. 340, at page 341, 75 L.Ed. 816 the court said: "Although it is not likely that a criminal will carefully consider the text of the law before he murders or steals, it is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, or what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed.

Summary of this case from United States v. Burleson

In McBoyle v. United States, 1931, 283 U.S. 25, 51 S.Ct. 340, 341, 75 L.Ed. 816, wherein an airplane was held not to be a "vehicle" within the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 408, Mr. Justice Holmes said: "Although it is not likely that a criminal will carefully consider the text of the law before he murders or steals, it is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed.

Summary of this case from United States v. Peoples

In McBoyle v. United States (1931), 283 U.S. 25, 26, 51 Sup. Ct. 340, 75 L.Ed. 816, the United States supreme court held that an airplane was not a motor vehicle within the meaning of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. For other cases holding that an airplane is not a motor vehicle see Byrd v. Piedmont Aviation, Inc. (1962), 256 N.C. 684, 124 S.E.2d 880; Estate of Hayden (1953), 174 Kan. 140, 254 P.2d 813; Rich v. Finley (1949), 325 Mass. 99, 89 N.E.2d 213.

Summary of this case from Newberger v. Pokrass

In McBoyle v. United States, 283 U.S. 25, 51 S.Ct. 340, 75 L.Ed. 816, the Court said: "... in every day speech `vehicle' calls up the picture of a thing moving on land."

Summary of this case from South Miss. Airways v. C. So. Airlines

observing that judicial statutory construction cannot proceed "upon the speculation that, if the legislature had thought of it, very likely broader words would have been used"

Summary of this case from Washington v. Com
Case details for

McBoyle v. United States

Case Details

Full title:McBOYLE v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Mar 9, 1931

Citations

283 U.S. 25 (1931)
51 S. Ct. 340
75 L. Ed. 816

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( Ibid., fn. omitted.) McBoyle v. United States (1931) 283 U.S. 25 [75 L.Ed. 816, 51 S.Ct. 340] illustrates…

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To make the warning fair, so far as possible the line should be clear." ( McBoyle v. United States (1931) 283…