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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Wulff - 758 F.2d 1121 (6th Cir. 1985)

Rule:

A felony conviction for the sale of a migratory bird part in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is violative of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Because a felony conviction under the Act does not require proof of scienter, because the crime is not one known to the common law, and because the felony penalty provision is severe and would result in irreparable damage to one's reputation. 

Facts:

The United States appealed the judgment of the district court dismissing an indictment that charged the defendant, Robert Wulff, with offering to sell migratory bird parts in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. § 703 et seq. 

Issue:

Was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act constitutional?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found the statute violated defendant's due process rights. Under the MBTA, a felony conviction did not require proof of scienter because the crime was not one known to the common law; further, the MBTA's felony penalty provision was severe and would result in irreparable damage to defendant's reputation; thus, the court affirmed the decision of the district court and declared the felony provision of the Act, 16 U.S.C.S. § 707(b)(2), to be unconstitutional.

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