The term 'contraband article' is defined by the pertinent provisions of Section 1(b), 49 U.S.C.A. § 781(b) as follows: 'Any narcotic drug which has been or is possessed with intent to sell or offer for sale in violation of any laws or regulations of the United States dealing therewith, or which is sold or offered for sale in violation thereof, or which does not bear appropriate tax-paid internal-revenue stamps as required by law or regulations'. This statutory definition is determinative of the ultimate question, to wit: Were the narcotic drugs, previously stolen from one in legal possession thereof, 'contraband articles' within the meaning of the Act? We are of the opinion that the answer must be in the negative.
The statute is penal in its nature and therefore must be strictly construed; it may not be extended by implication to cover situations not clearly within its express provisions. It is our opinion that the term 'contraband article' did not embrace the mere possession of narcotic drugs acquired by theft, especially where, as here, the packages bore 'appropriate tax-paid internal-revenue stamps as required by law'. We are willing to concede, however, that if narcotic drugs thus acquired were thereafter possessed 'with intent to sell' of were 'sold or offered for sale' in violation of the law, a motor vehicle used in such a violation might be subject to forfeiture. The evidence before the Court does not disclose such a situation.
The evidence here presented will not support a determination that the narcotic drugs were possessed by Krenkiewicz, at the time they were transported to his home, 'with intent to sell' in violation of the law, the test prescribed by the statute; in fact, he testified that at that time he had no knowledge that the merchandise he had stolen included narcotic drugs. The only intent which Krenkiewicz had was to conceal the loot after he had discovered that it included narcotic drugs.
Any doubt as to the strict construction we have here adopted seems to be dispelled by the Amendment of August 9, 1950, 49 U.S.C.A. § 781(b) (1). The definition was therein expanded so as to cover situations not theretofore covered. The term 'contraband article' is therein defined as follows: 'Any narcotic drug which has been or is possessed with intent to sell or offer for sale in violation of any laws or regulations of the United States dealing therewith; or which has been acquired or is possessed, sold, transferred, or offered for sale, in violation of any laws of the United States dealing therewith; or which has been acquired by theft, robbery, or burglary and carried or transported * * *, from any state, * * *, to another state, * * *; or which does not bear appropriate tax-paid internal-revenue stamps as required by law or regulations'. We have emphasized the amendatory provisions.
The purpose of the amendment is explained in the House Report, No. 2751 United States Code Congressional Service, 1950, Vol. 2, page 2953. It is therein stated: 'In recent years there has been an increase in the number of narcotics thefts, robberies, and burglaries from drug stores, physicians' offices, and other places from which narcotic drugs are dispensed. The perpetrators of these crimes rely to a large extent on the use of high-powered automobiles to make their escape from the jurisdiction in which the crime took place. When captured, the narcotic drugs thus stolen often are found to bear the required internal-revenue stamps. and consequently seizure and forfeiture of the vehicles used is difficult to obtain, particularly when the drugs have not been sold by the thieves subsequent to the theft. The proposed legislation would attack this problem by permitting the seizure of vessels, vehicles, and aircraft used in connection with the traffic in stolen drugs, when such drugs are carried or transported in interstate commerce, or within any territory, possession, or the District of Columbia.' (Emphasis by the Court.)
It will be observed that even the amendment does not cover the situation disclosed by the evidence in this case. The amendment defines as 'contraband' narcotic drugs 'acquired by theft, robbery, or burglary' and thereafter 'carried or transported' in interstate commerce. The motor vehicle herein question was used by Krenkiewicz to transport the stolen drugs from the place of the theft to his home, both within the State of New Jersey.
The motor vehicle was not subject to seizure and forfeiture under the pertinent provisions of the Act, 49 U.S.C.A. §§ 781 and 782. The libel must, therefore, be dismissed.
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