UNITED STATES v. MORGAN

No. 463.

222 U.S. 274 (1911)

UNITED STATES v. MORGAN.

Supreme Court of United States.

Decided December 11, 1911.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

The Solicitor General, with whom Mr. Jesse C. Adkins and Mr. Loring C. Christie were on the brief, for the United States.

Mr. Alexander Thain for defendants in error.


MR. JUSTICE LAMAR, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The Federal courts have not agreed as to the effect of the provision for notice and hearing found in § 4 of the Pure Food and Drug Act of June 30, 1906, 34 Stat. L. 768, c. 3915. United States v. Barrels Olives, 179 Fed. Rep. 983. United States v. Cases of Grape Juice, 189 Fed. Rep. 331. Whether it confers a right upon the defendant, or results in imposing a duty upon the district attorney, can be determined by a brief examination of a few of the provisions of the act.

Under the Pure Food Law not only a manufacturer, but any dealer, shipping adulterated or misbranded goods in interstate commerce is guilty of a misdemeanor. In aid of enforcement of the statute it is made the duty of the Department of Agriculture to collect specimens of such articles so shipped, and the Bureau of Chemistry is required to analyze them. But, even if the specimen, on analysis, is found to be adulterated, there is no requirement that the case should be turned over at once to the district attorney, for the reason that the "party from whom the sample was obtained" might be a dealer holding a guaranty from his vendor that the articles were not adulterated. In such case the dealer is not liable to prosecution, but the guarantor (§ 9) is made "amenable to the prosecutions, fines and other penalties."

The act, therefore, declares (§ 4) that when, on such examination by the Board of Chemistry, the article is found to be adulterated, "notice shall be given to the party from whom the sample was obtained. Any party so notified shall be given an opportunity to be heard." If it then appears that he has violated the statute, the Secretary of Agriculture is required to certify that fact, together with a copy of the analysis, to the proper district attorney, who (§ 5), without delay, must "institute appropriate proceedings," by indictment, or libel for condemnation, or both, as the facts may warrant.

But the act also contemplates (§ 5), that complaints may be made to the district attorney by state health officials. In that class of cases, no doubt because the state agents investigate without giving a hearing, the district attorney is not obliged to prosecute unless such state officers "shall present satisfactory evidence of such violation." But the very fact that he must do so in that event recognizes that he may begin proceedings against a defendant who has not been given a notice and an opportunity to be heard.

In providing for notice in one case, and permitting prosecutions without it in another, the statute clearly shows that there was no intent to make notice jurisdictional. This view is strengthened by the fact that it contains no reference to giving notice to anyone except "to the party from whom the sample was obtained." And if, on the hearing given him, it appears that he is a dealer holding a guaranty, the act in providing for proceedings against such guarantor contains no suggestion that a new notice shall be given him before an indictment can be submitted to the grand jury.

In cases like the present, or where foreign goods are labelled as of domestic manufacture and vice versa, no scientific examination may be necessary. But usually a chemical analysis will be required to determine whether an article is adulterated. The Bureau of Chemistry is equipped to do that work, so that in practice most prosecutions will be based on reports made by the Department of Agriculture after notice. But the hearing is not judicial. There is no provision for compelling the presence of the party from whom the sample was received; if he voluntarily attends he is not in jeopardy; an adverse finding is not binding against him; and a decision in his favor is not an acquittal which prevents a subsequent hearing before the Department, or a trial in court.

The provision as to the hearing is administrative, creating a condition where the district attorney is compelled to prosecute without delay. When he receives the Secretary's report, he is not to make another and independent examination, but is bound to accept the finding of the Department that the goods are adulterated or misbranded, and that the party from whom they had been obtained held no guaranty. But the fact that the statute compels him to act in one case, does not deprive him of the power voluntarily to proceed in that and every other case under his general powers. If, for any reason, the executive department failed to report violations of this law its neglect would leave untouched the duty of the district attorney to prosecute "all delinquents for crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States." Rev. Stats., §§ 771, 1022. So, an improper finding by the Department would no more stay the grand jury than an order of discharge by a committing magistrate after an ordinary preliminary trial. For the statute contains no expression indicating an intention to withdraw offenses under this act from the general powers of the grand jury, who are diligently to inquire and true presentment make of all matters called to their attention by the court, or that may come to their knowledge during the then present service.

Repeals by implication are not favored, and there is certainly no presumption that a law passed in the interest of the public health was to hamper district attorneys, curtail the powers of grand juries or make them, with evidence in hand, halt in their investigation and await the action of the Department. To graft such an exception upon the criminal law would require a clear and unambiguous expression of the legislative will.

It was argued that the privilege of a preliminary hearing was granted so as to prevent malicious prosecutions. But, had such been its intention, the statute would have required that a hearing should be given to all persons charged with a violation of the act, and not merely to those from whom the sample was received. A further answer is, that as to this and every other offense the Fourth Amendment furnishes the citizen the nearest practicable safeguard against malicious accusations. He cannot be tried on an Information unless it is supported by the oath of some one having knowledge of facts showing the existence of probable cause. Nor can an indictment be found until after an examination of witnesses, under oath, by grand jurors, — the chosen instruments of the law to protect the citizen against unfounded prosecutions, whether they be instituted by the Government or prompted by private malice. There is nothing in the nature of the offense under the Pure Food Law, or in the language of the statute, which indicates that Congress intended to grant violators of this act a conditional immunity from prosecution, or to confer upon them a privilege not given every other person charged with a crime. The judgment is

Reversed.


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