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UNITED STATES v. KURZENKNABE

December 2, 1955

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Frank KURZENKNABE and Albert Scher



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WORTENDYKE

Defendants were indicted under the provisions of Section 1010 of the Federal Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1010, which provides that it is a criminal offense for any person to make a false statement in connection with certain transactions with the Federal Housing Administration. The indictment, which was returned on September 7, 1955, charges that on or about March 5, 1952 the defendants made a false completion certificate in order to obtain a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Defendant Kurzenknabe has moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C., to dismiss the indictment as to him, upon the ground that his prosecution is barred by the Federal statute of limitations applicable to non-capital offenses. The defendant contends that such statutory period of limitation is three years and that this period expired as to the offense charged against him some six months before the indictment was returned. The Government takes the position that in 1954, before the three-year period had run with respect to the offense charged, Congress increased the statute of limitations for non-capital offenses from three to five years and that consequently the period during which the defendant might be prosecuted was extended beyond the date upon which the indictment was returned. This position of the Government, the defendant argues, results from an erroneous interpretation and application of the amending statute relied upon by the Government.

 On March 5, 1952, the date on which the defendant is charged to have committed the offense set forth in the indictment, the statute of limitations applicable to that offense read as follows:

 ' § 3282. Offenses Not Capital

 'Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, no person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital, unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted within three years next after such offense shall have been committed.' 62 Stat. 828, 18 U.S.C. § 3282 (1948).

 It will be noted that the quoted section by its terms does not apply to offenses for which a different statute of limitations is expressly provided. As no special statute of limitations exists for the offense here involved, Section 3282 governs. The number of non-capital offenses for which a special statute of limitations is provided is relatively small and, for convenience, Section 3282 may sometimes be referred to below as the statute of limitations for non-capital offenses.

 Were Section 3282 the only provision to be considered, undoubtedly the defendant's motion to dismiss would have to be granted, inasmuch as the indictment was not returned within three years from March 5, 1952. But Congress has amended the above provision by a section contained in Public Law 769, which became effective on September 1, 1954. The language of this amendment is as follows:

 'Sec. 10. (a) Section 3282 of title 18 of the United States Code is amended by striking out 'three' and inserting in lieu thereof 'five'.

 '(b) The amendment made by subsection (a) shall be effective with respect to offenses (1) committed on or after the date of enactment of this Act, or (2) committed prior to such date, if on such date prosecution therefor is not barred by provisions of law in effect prior to such date.' P.L. 769, 68 Stat. 1145 (1945).

 On its face, the language and purpose of Section 10 seem quite clear. Applying the amendment to the instant case, it would certainly appear that Congress extended the period during which an indictment might be returned against the defendant from March 1955 to March 1957.

 The defendant contends that Section 10 of Public Law 769 has not affected the running of the statute of limitations insofar as he and the offense with which he is charged are concerned. Two arguments are advanced to sustain this contention. The first of these arguments is that Section 10 did not increase the limitation period except as to certain non-capital offenses enumerated elsewhere in Public Law 769. The second argument is that even if Section 10 did increase the limitation period for non-capital offenses generally, such increase does not apply to offenses committed before the amendment became law on September 1, 1954, irrespective of the provision contained in subdivision (b).

 There appear to be no reported decisions involving a consideration of the effect of Section 10 upon the three-year statute of limitations provided in Section 3282. It is true that in United States v. Laut, D.C.S.D.N.Y.1955, 17 F.R.D. 31, 36, it was noted, in passing on other matters, that the limitation period for non-capital offenses had been increased from three to five years by Public Law 769. There is no indication that any question was raised in that case as to the effect of the amendment.

 I.

 To support his first argument that Section 10 of Public Law 769 did not effect an amendment of Section 3282 as it applies to the offense with which the defendant is charged, the defendant urges that Section 10 must be read in connection with the other sections of Public Law 769, which is an Act 'To prohibit payment of annuities to officers and employees of the United States convicted of certain offenses, and for other purposes.' An examination of the Act shows that, as its title indicates, the principal object of the law is to deny annuities and retired pay to certain Federal officers and employees. The defendant points to Section 1 of the Act which specifies by number particular sections of Title 18 the conviction of any one of which constitutes a ground for denying Federal retirement benefits. Without going into too great detail, the types of offenses specified as grounds for denying pension and retired pay to Federal Employees are treason, espionage, sabotage, sedition, subversive activities, bribery, graft and felonies or perjury committed under particular circumstances. The offense with which the defendant is charged is not among the crimes specified in Public Law 769. Sections 2 through 9 of the Act include other grounds of a non-criminal nature as bases for the denial of retirement benefits (Section 2), provision for the return of contributions (Section 3), restoration of rights upon pardon (Section 4), non-liability of disbursing officers (Section 5), definitions (Section 6), non-exclusive nature of Act (Section 7), removal of names from rosters (Section 8), and a separability clause (Section 9).

 The argument pressed upon the Court is that only as to those crimes specifically enumerated in Section 1 does the enlargement of the statute of limitations provided in Section 10 apply. Although it is clear that the language of Section 10 contains nothing that would limit its application in the manner suggested, the defendant insists that the legislative history of the entire statute supplies what is missing in the way of restricting language, inasmuch as the history demonstrates that Congress had no intention of increasing the statute of limitations for non-capital offenses generally but that the increase provided by Section 10 was only designed to permit a longer time for the prosecution of offenses which might ultimately result in the denial of retirement benefits to Federal employees.

 The rules governing the use of legislative history as a guide to statutory interpretation are that

 'Where the language and purpose of the questioned statute is clear, courts, of course, follow the legislative direction in interpretation. Where the words are ambiguous, the judiciary may properly use the legislative history to reach a conclusion. And that method of determining congressional purpose is likewise applicable when the literal words would bring about an end completely at variance with the purpose of the statute.' United ...


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