BLOCKBURGER v. UNITED STATES No. 374.
284 U.S. 299 (1932)
BLOCKBURGER v. UNITED STATES.
Supreme Court of United States.
Decided January 4, 1932.
Mr. Claude R. Branch, with whom Solicitor General Thatcher, Assistant Attorney General Dodds, and Mr. Harry S. Ridgely were on the brief, for the United States.
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner was charged with violating provisions of the Harrison Narcotic Act: c. 1, § 1, 38 Stat. 785, as amended by c. 18, § 1006, 40 Stat. 1057, 1131, (U.S.C., Title 26, § 692);
The principal contentions here made by petitioner are as follows: (1) that, upon the facts, the two sales charged in the second and third counts as having been made to the same person, constitute a single offense; and (2) that the sale charged in the third count as having been made not from the original stamped package, and the same sale charged in the fifth count as having been made not in pursuance of a written order of the purchaser, constitute but one offense for which only a single penalty lawfully may be imposed.
One. The sales charged in the second and third counts, although made to the same person, were distinct and separate sales made at different times. It appears from the evidence that shortly after delivery of the drug which was the subject of the first sale, the purchaser paid for an additional quantity, which was delivered the next day. But the first sale had been consummated, and the payment for the additional drug, however closely following, was the initiation of a separate and distinct sale completed by its delivery.
The contention on behalf of petitioner is that these two sales, having been made to the same purchaser and
"It is, inherently, a continuous offence, having duration; and not an offense consisting of an isolated act.
"A distinction is laid down in adjudged cases and in textwriters between an offence continuous in its character, like the one at bar, and a case where the statute is aimed at an offense that can be committed uno ictu."
The Narcotic Act does not create the offense of engaging in the business of selling the forbidden drugs, but penalizes any sale made in the absence of either of the qualifying requirements set forth. Each of several successive sales constitutes a distinct offense, however closely they may follow each other. The distinction stated by Mr. Wharton is that "when the impulse is single, but one indictment lies, no matter how long the action may continue. If successive impulses are separately given, even though all unite in swelling a common stream of action, separate indictments lie." Wharton's Criminal Law, 11th ed., § 34. Or, as stated in note 3 to that section, "The test is whether the individual acts are prohibited, or the course of action which they constitute. If the former, then each act is punishable separately . . . If the latter, there can be but one penalty."
"These words plainly indicate that it was the intention of the lawmakers to protect each and every mail bag from felonious injury and mutilation. Whenever any one mail bag is thus torn, cut or injured, the offense is complete. Although the transaction of cutting the mail bags was in a sense continuous, the complete statutory offense was committed every time a mail bag was cut in the manner described, with the intent charged. The offense as to each separate bag was complete when that bag was cut, irrespective of any attack upon, or mutilation of, any other bag."
See also In re Henry,
Two. Section 1 of the Narcotic Act creates the offense of selling any of the forbidden drugs except in or from the original stamped package; and § 2 creates the offense of selling any of such drugs not in pursuance of a written
The statute is not aimed at sales of the forbidden drugs qua sales, a matter entirely beyond the authority of Congress, but at sales of such drugs in violation of the requirements set forth in §§ 1 and 2, enacted as aids to the enforcement of the stamp tax imposed by the act. See Alston v. United States,
Each of the offenses created requires proof of a different element. The applicable rule is that where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of a fact which the other does not. Gavieres v. United States,
The case of Ballerini v. Aderholt,
Three. It is not necessary to discuss the additional assignments of error in respect of cross-examination, admission of testimony, statements made by the district
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