MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
At issue in this case are two overlapping provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Omnibus
Respondent, a previously convicted felon, was found guilty of receiving a firearm that had traveled in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 922 (h).
The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction but, by a divided vote, remanded for resentencing. 581 F.2d 626 (CA7 1978). The majority recognized that respondent had been indicted and convicted under § 922 (h) and that § 924 (a) permits five years' imprisonment for such violations. 581 F. 2d, at 629. However, noting that the substantive elements
We granted certiorari, 439 U.S. 1066 (1979), and now reverse the judgment vacating respondent's 5-year prison sentence.
This Court has previously noted the partial redundancy of §§ 922 (h) and 1202 (a), both as to the conduct they proscribe and the individuals they reach. See United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336, 341-343, and n. 9 (1971). However, we find nothing in the language, structure, or legislative history of the Omnibus Act to suggest that because of this overlap, a defendant convicted under § 922 (h) may be imprisoned for no more than the maximum term specified in § 1202 (a). As we read the Act, each substantive statute, in conjunction with its own sentencing provision, operates independently of the other.
Section 922 (h), contained in Title IV of the Omnibus Act, prohibits four categories of individuals from receiving "any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce." See n. 2, supra. Persons who violate Title IV are subject to the penalties provided by § 924 (a), which authorizes a maximum fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for up to five years. See n. 3, supra. Section 1202 (a), located in Title VII of the Omnibus Act, forbids five categories of individuals from "receiv[ing], possess[ing], or transport[ing] in commerce or affecting commerce . . . any firearm." This same section authorizes a maximum fine of
While §§ 922 and 1202 (a) both prohibit convicted felons such as petitioner from receiving firearms,
That Congress intended to enact two independent gun control statutes, each fully enforceable on its own terms, is confirmed by the legislative history of the Omnibus Act. Section 922 (h) derived from § 2 (f) of the Federal Firearms Act of
By contrast, Title VII was a "last-minute" floor amendment, "hastily passed, with little discussion, no hearings, and no report." United States v. Bass, supra, at 344, and n. 11; see Scarborough v. United States, supra, at 569-570, and n. 9. And the meager legislative debates involving that amendment demonstrate no intention to alter the terms of Title IV. Immediately before the Senate passed Title VII, Senator Dodd inquired whether it would substitute for Title IV. 114 Cong. Rec. 14774 (1968). Senator Long, the sponsor of the amendment, replied that § 1202 would "take nothing from" but merely "add to" Title IV. 114 Cong. Rec. 14774 (1968). Similarly, although Title VII received only passing mention in House discussions of the bill, Representative Machen made clear that the amendment would "complement. . . the gun-control legislation contained in title IV." Id., at 16286. Had these legislators intended to pre-empt Title IV in cases of overlap, they presumably would not have indicated that the purpose of Title VII was to complement Title IV. See Scarborough v. United States, supra, at 573.
In construing § 1202 (a) to override the penalties authorized by § 924 (a), the Court of Appeals relied, we believe erroneously, on three principles of statutory interpretation. First, the court invoked the well-established doctrine that ambiguities in criminal statutes must be resolved in favor of lenity. E. g., Rewis v. United States, 401 U.S. 808, 812 (1971); United States v. Bass, 404 U. S., at 347; United States v. Culbert, 435 U.S. 371, 379 (1978); United States v. Naftalin, 441 U.S. 768, 778-779 (1979); Dunn v. United States, ante, at 112-113. Although this principle of construction applies to sentencing as well as substantive provisions, see Simpson v. United States, 435 U.S. 6, 14-15 (1978), in the instant case there is no ambiguity to resolve. Respondent unquestionably violated § 922 (h), and § 924 (a) unquestionably permits five years' imprisonment for such a violation. That § 1202 (a) provides different penalties for essentially the same conduct is no justification for taking liberties with unequivocal statutory
Nor can § 1202 (a) be interpreted as implicitly repealing § 924 (a) whenever a defendant's conduct might violate both Titles. For it is "not enough to show that the two statutes produce differing results when applied to the same factual situation." Radzanower v. Touche Ross & Co., 426 U.S. 148, 155 (1976). Rather, the legislative intent to repeal must be manifest in the "`positive repugnancy between the provisions.'" United States v. Borden Co., 308 U.S. 188, 199 (1939). In this case, however, the penalty provisions are fully capable of coexisting because they apply to convictions under different statutes.
Finally, the maxim that statutes should be construed to avoid constitutional questions offers no assistance here. This "`cardinal principle' of statutory construction . . . is appropriate only when [an alternative interpretation] is `fairly possible'" from the language of the statute. Swain v. Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 378 n. 11 (1977); see Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 62 (1932); United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689, 693 (1948); Shapiro v. United States, 335 U.S. 1, 31 (1948). We simply are unable to discern any basis in the Omnibus Act for reading the term "five" in § 924 (a) to mean "two."
In resolving the statutory question, the majority below expressed "serious doubts about the constitutionality of two statutes that provide different penalties for identical conduct." 581 F. 2d, at 633-634 (footnote omitted). Specifically, the court suggested that the statutes might (1) be void for vagueness, (2) implicate "due process and equal protection interest[s] in avoiding excessive prosecutorial discretion and in
It is a fundamental tenet of due process that "[n]o one may be required at peril of life, liberty or property to speculate as to the meaning of penal statutes." Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453 (1939). A criminal statute is therefore invalid if it "fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden." United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 617 (1954). See Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391-393 (1926); Papachristou v. Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, 162 (1972); Dunn v. United States, ante, at 112-113. So too, vague sentencing provisions may pose constitutional questions if they do not state with sufficient clarity the consequences of violating a given criminal statute. See United States v. Evans, 333 U.S. 483 (1948); United States v. Brown, 333 U.S. 18 (1948); cf. Giaccio v. Pennsylvania, 382 U.S. 399 (1966).
The provisions in issue here, however, unambiguously specify the activity proscribed and the penalties available upon conviction. See supra, at 119. That this particular conduct may violate both Titles does not detract from the notice afforded by each. Although the statutes create uncertainty as to which crime may be charged and therefore what penalties may be imposed, they do so to no greater extent than would a single statute authorizing various alternative punishments. So long as overlapping criminal provisions clearly define the conduct prohibited and the punishment authorized, the notice requirements of the Due Process Clause are satisfied.
This Court has long recognized that when an act violates more than one criminal statute, the Government may prosecute
The Court of Appeals acknowledged this "settled rule" allowing prosecutorial choice. 581 F. 2d, at 632. Nevertheless, relying on the dissenting opinion in Berra v. United States, 351 U.S. 131 (1956),
Contrary to the Court of Appeals' assertions, a prosecutor's discretion to choose between §§ 922 (h) and 1202 (a) is not
Approaching the problem of prosecutorial discretion from a slightly different perspective, the Court of Appeals postulated that the statutes might impermissibly delegate to the Executive Branch the Legislature's responsibility to fix criminal penalties.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is
"It shall be unlawful for any person—
"(1) who is under indictment for, or who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
"(2) who is a fugitive from justice;
"(3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to marihuana or any depressant or stimulant drug . . . or narcotic drug . . . ; or
"(4) who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to any mental institution;
"to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce."
"Whoever violates any provision of this chapter . . . shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, and shall become eligible for parole as the Board of Parole shall determine."
"Any person who—
"(1) has been convicted by a court of the United States or of a State or any political subdivision thereof of a felony, or
"(2) has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions, or
"(3) has been adjudged by a court of the United States or of a State or any political subdivision thereof of being mentally incompetent, or
"(4) having been a citizen of the United States has renounced his citizenship, or
"(5) being an alien is illegally or unlawfully in the United States, "and who receives, possesses, or transports in commerce or affecting commerce, after the date of enactment of this Act, any firearm shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both." 18 U. S. C. App. § 1202 (a).
"any offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, but does not include any offense (other than one involving a firearm or explosive) classified as a misdemeanor under the laws of a State and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less." 18 U. S. C. App. § 1202 (c) (2).
Under Title IV, "a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year," 18 U. S. C. § 922 (h) (1), excludes
"(A) any Federal or State offenses pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices . . . , or
"(B) any State offense (other than one involving a firearm or explosive) classified by the laws of the State as a misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less." 18 U. S. C. § 921 (a) (20).