Hughes v. Oklahoma,

441 U.S. 322, 99 S. Ct. 1727 (1979)



When a statute is challenged under the Commerce Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, as a general rule, a court must inquire (1) whether the challenged statute regulates evenhandedly with only "incidental" effects on interstate commerce, or discriminates against interstate commerce either on its face or in practical effect; (2) whether the statute serves a legitimate local purpose; and, if so, (3) whether alternative means could promote this local purpose as well without discriminating against interstate commerce. The burden to show discrimination rests on the party challenging the validity of the statute, but when discrimination against commerce is demonstrated, the burden falls on the State to justify it both in terms of the local benefits flowing from the statute and the unavailability of nondiscriminatory alternatives adequate to preserve the local interests at stake. Furthermore, when considering the purpose of a challenged statute, this Court is not bound by the name, description or characterization given it by the legislature or the courts of the State, but will determine for itself the practical impact of the law.


Defendant purchased a large quantity of minnows from a minnow dealer that was licensed in Oklahoma. Because defendant purchased the minnows to export them from Oklahoma to Texas for sale, he was charged with violating § 411-115(B). Defendant was convicted in the trial court and a fine was imposed for the violation. The court of criminal appeals affirmed defendant's conviction. On further review, the Court reversed defendant's conviction.


Was the statute restricting the export by defendant violative of the Commerce Clause?




Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 29, § 411-115(B) (Supp. 1978) is repugnant to the Commerce Clause. The court reasoned that § 411-115(B) was discriminatory on its face because it placed no limits on the numbers or disposition of minnows within the state but forbade their export for sale outside the state. In rejecting the fiction of state ownership of wildlife, the Court specifically overruled Greer v. U.S., 161 U.S. 519 (1896).

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