McBoyle v. United States

283 U.S. 25, 51 S. Ct. 340 (1931)

 

RULE:

It is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in language that the common world will understand, of what the law intends to do if a certain line is passed. To make the warning fair, so far as possible the line should be clear.

FACTS:

Petitioner was convicted of transporting from Illinois to Oklahoma an airplane that he knew was stolen, under the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. He was sentenced to serve three years imprisonment and to pay a fine of $ 2,000. The appellate court affirmed the judgment. Petitioner questions his conviction, stating that the law does not apply to an aircraft.

ISSUE:

Is an airplane considered a motor vehicle under the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that it was impossible to read the words, which so carefully enumerated the different forms of motor vehicles and had no reference of any kind to aircraft, as including airplanes, a term that was precisely confined to a different class of vehicles. It held that the statute should have given the world a fair warning of what the law intended to do if a certain line was passed in language that the common world would understand. To make the warning fair, so far as possible, the line should have been clear. The court refused to extend the statute, which evoked in the common mind only vehicles moving on land, to aircraft simply because it thought a similar policy applied or because it speculated that if the legislature had thought of it, very likely broader words would have been used. Petitioner's conviction was reversed. 

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