Kimbrough v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: District Court of Massachusetts

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 364 US 661 (1961)
ARGUED: Jan 11, 1961 / Jan 12, 1961
DECIDED: Jan 16, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Kimbrough v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1961 in Kimbrough v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1961 in Kimbrough v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 128, Vernon Kimbrough, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Barrett.

Edward L. Barrett, Jr.:

May it please the Court.

The facts in this case, maybe simply stated in April 28, 1941, the petitioner was indicted a grand jury in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

This indictment contained three counts.

All charges relating to the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act.

First count charged a conspiracy on behalf of this petitioner and his two codefendants to violate that statute.

Second count charged that on or about the 12th day of February 1941, petitioner and his codefendants did unlawfully and feloniously transport and caused to be transported in interstate commerce from Atlanta in the State of Georgia to Owen County, Kentucky when 1941 Super Deluxe Ford Motor car identified by its motor number which have theretofore been stolen in around three motor companies in Lake City, Florida.

The said defendants knowing had been so stolen.

The third count charged that on or about the 19th day of January 1941 in between said date in the 13th day of February 1941, and then the jurisdiction of this Court, the petitioner and his codefendants did unlawfully and feloniously receive, conceal, and store the same motor vehicle as to which the transportation was charged in the second count, knowing that it was moving -- it was a part of interstate commerce and had been stolen in Florida.

The petitioner pleaded guilty for these three counts.

Also incidentally on April 28th and the same day, the judge gave sentences of two years on Count 1, the conspiracy count and five years on each of Counts 2 and 3, in order that these sentences to run consecutively for a total of 12 years.

The present proceeding began with the motion by the petitioner to vacate the sentence under Count 3 and motion filed under 28 United States Code 2255 filed on April 9th, 1959.

This motion was denied by the District Court.

It was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in the Sixth Circuit and the case is now here.

As a result of a combination of circumstances which don't appear on the record of this case, petitioner is now serving sentence attributable to the last -- some part of the last five years, so there's 12-year sentence in 1941, and so the legality of the sentence under the -- is -- is presently at issue.

The petitioner and the Government are in agreement that the motion under 2255 was a proper motion to raise the question, whether it considering the phase of the indictment, the consecutive sentences here would proper.

There's also an agreement that the issue must be determined from the phase of the indictment because no other facts are numb.

The question then becomes, question of interpretation of the statute, the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act determined whether it permitted consecutive sentences were fence forting and for receiving, concealing, and storing was reference to the same automobile.

This was involved here.

I think the conflicting positions of the Government and petitioner can be quickly set out and would show the dimensions of the problem before us.

Petitioner's contention is essentially this, that under the statute properly construed a single defendant may, with respect to a single automobile, be charged with only one offense.

That is that during a period of time here the statute -- the indictment charged that between January 19th and February 13th, the defendant -- the petitioner here was guilty of receiving, concealing, and storing an automobile.

It charged that on February 12th which is within the period charged in receiving, concealing, and storing count that he transported this automobile in interstate commerce.

Now, the broad contention then of the petitioner here, if it would not regard to what things -- petitioner may have done with this automobile without regard to where he kept it, without regard to whether he took it across six state lines or one state line.

Not regard to whether he repainted motor numbers, re-changed the motor numbers, repainted the car whatever else he did.

He properly construed this statute under this statute that he can be convicted of only one crime.

Now, the Governor's con -- the Government's contention is set forth in their brief, was to much broader contention and that is, as I understand it that in this context, a person may be charged with an almost indefinite number of crimes and receive consecutive sentences so long as he commits separate acts with reference to this automobile.

And the Government's position says that the issue turns at least upon the question of whether or not separate acts were committed.

Now, two examples that may serve to illustrate the problem that we're dealing with, one example would be the case of the professional thief which steals a car in one State, immediately transports to another State and disposes of it to offense.