Mosley v. United States

PETITIONER: Mosley
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Alden's Workplace

DOCKET NO.: 97-7213
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 525 US 120 (1998)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1998
DECIDED: Dec 08, 1998

ADVOCATES:
David C. Frederick - Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., argued the cause for the respondent
Donald J. McCauley - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

In 1995, Sylvester Mosley was arrested after robbing two banks in eleven days. At the first bank, Mosley displayed a "HOLD UP" sign and asked the teller "Can I have all your money?" At the second bank, Mosley told the teller "This is a holdup, open your bottom draw and give me all your big bills." Because he merely asked for the money, Mosley asked the trial judge to instruct the jury that it could find him guilty of larceny as a lesser-included offense of robbery. Mosley argued that the federal bank robbery statute, 18 USC 2113(a), requires that the robber take the money "by force or violence, or intimidation." The court denied the motion, finding that Mosley had intimated the tellers. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found that larceny could not be considered a lesser offense of robbery because an element of larceny is intent and intent is not contained in the robbery definition.

Question

Must jurors be instructed in some bank robbery prosecutions to consider the lesser charge of bank larceny?

Media for Mosley v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1998 in Mosley v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 97-7213, Sylvester Mosley v. The United States.

Mr. McCauley.

Donald J. McCauley:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue in this case--

William H. Rehnquist:

Just a moment, Mr. McCauley.

Spectators are admonished, do not talk until you get out of the courtroom.

The Court remains in session.

Proceed, Mr. McCauley.

Donald J. McCauley:

--The issue in this case is, if this Court is to imply a mens rea element in the Federal bank robbery statute, as both sides concede it must, then the Court's decision in Morissette v. The United States governs.

In Morissette v. The United States, the Court held that it would imply a specific intent element into a statute that codified a common law crime.

William H. Rehnquist:

There, the statute itself had no intent requirement, did it, in Morissette, statute by its terms.

Donald J. McCauley:

That's correct, although I believe there was mention of a knowingly in the Morissette case, a general intent, and this Court held that where the legislature, Congress was codifying a crime that was a crime at common law, it considered the whole tradition of the common law, wherein an evil intent had always been either a specific element of the statute of common law, or the understanding of the case law common law, so when the Congress was legislating against that common law backdrop, this Court held a statute that did not have the literal word intent, or evil will, that was not deleted by Congress through inadvertence, that the Court would require a specific statutory statement by the Congress saying that it intended and directing that its intention was contrary to the common law understanding that an evil intent was always there.

William H. Rehnquist:

What we're talking about here, I guess the question presented is whether bank larceny is a lesser-included offense of bank robbery, is that right?

Donald J. McCauley:

Yes.

William H. Rehnquist:

And the reason that intent is important, and that's why you're talking about it, is what?

Donald J. McCauley:

Is the larceny statute specifically has an element, intent to steal, whereas the current codification of the bank robbery statute does not have the word intent.

It has the steal language in that there's a phrase, to take from the person or presence of another, which is the definitional term for steal.

William H. Rehnquist:

And if intent is read into it, then it... bank larceny is a lesser-included offense, and if intent is not read into the robbery statute, then bank larceny is not a lesser-included offense?

Donald J. McCauley:

Yes, Your Honor, under this Court's holding in Schmuck.

If it is read in, and we have the definitional phrase connoting steal, then it mirrors the elements that are at issue in the lesser offense, the intent to steal.

David H. Souter:

Well, even if that is so, don't you have a problem in this case, because the lesser-included offense that you ask the charge to be given on was the more serious of the two larceny offenses, i.e., theft of something more than 1,000, and there's no requirement of value of more than 1,000 in the robbery statute, so is it not... I guess another way to put my question is, is it not the case that if you're right so far, the lesser of the two larceny statutes may be a lesser-included offense, but the one you asked for, which requires proof of more than 1,000, is not?

Donald J. McCauley:

No, Justice Souter.

The 1,000 threshold that's in the two paragraphs of the larceny statute is not a requisite element of larceny.

David H. Souter:

Well, why isn't it?

It is, as you just said, in a separate paragraph.

That's not usually the way sentencing elements are described.

Donald J. McCauley:

I submit that the 1,000 threshold is to distinguish between a felony larceny, felony bank larceny--

David H. Souter:

Mm-hmm.

Donald J. McCauley:

--and a misdemeanor bank larceny.

Now, the crime of robbery is always a felony, and we were charged in the indictment with a crime of robbery, and the indictment set forth amounts more than 1,000, 9,000 in count 1--