Law School Case Brief
United States v. Mazurie - 419 U.S. 544, 95 S. Ct. 710 (1975)
Vagueness challenges to statutes that do not involve rights under U.S. Const. amend. I, must be examined in the light of the facts of the case at hand.
Defendants, who were non-Indians, operated a bar on privately owned land located within the boundaries of an Indian reservation, on the outskirts of an unincorporated village, without having obtained a tribal liquor license as required under a tribal ordinance adopted pursuant to the authority conferred on Indian tribes by Congress under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1161. After a non-jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, defendants were convicted of unauthorized introduction of alcoholic beverages into "Indian country" in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1154, which defines "Indian country" as not to include fee-patented lands "in non-Indian communities," the District Court having concluded that the evidence of the largely Indian composition of the area surrounding the defendants' bar established that the bar was located in "Indian country." The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that (1) it had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the bar was not excluded from "Indian country" by the 1154(c) exception for fee-patented lands in "non-Indian communities," (2) because of the indefiniteness of the term "non-Indian communities" 1154 was unconstitutionally vague, and (3) 18 U.S.C.S. § 1161, insofar as it authorized Indian tribes to control the introduction by non-Indians of alcoholic beverages onto non-Indian land, was an invalid delegation of congressional authority.
Was the statute that provided for Indian tribal regulation of alcohol on Indian country unconstitutionally vague when applied to defendants where by operating a bar next to a housing development populated largely by Indians they were sufficiently advised they were not excepted from regulation?
The United States Supreme Court found that the term "non-Indian community" was not unconstitutionally vague as applied to defendants where by operating a bar near a public housing development populated largely by Indians, they were sufficiently advised that they were not exempt from regulation. The court held that pursuant to the Commerce Clause, the federal government had the power to regulate a business on land it granted in fee without restrictions. U.S. Const. art. I, § 8. The court determined the congressional delegation of power was valid where Indian tribes possessed sufficient attributes of sovereignty over both their members and their territory to warrant such a delegation. The court concluded that it was immaterial that defendants were not Indians.
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