Schmuck v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Checker Gasoline Station

DOCKET NO.: 87-6431
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 489 US 705 (1989)
ARGUED: Nov 30, 1988
DECIDED: Mar 22, 1989

Brian J. Martin – on behalf of the Respondent
Peter L. Steinberg – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Schmuck v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 30, 1988 in Schmuck v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 22, 1989 in Schmuck v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-6431, Schmuck versus United States will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, this is a male fraud case presenting two issues.

Petitioner, Schmuck, is a Wisconsin used car distributor.

The indictment alleged that he purchased used cars and rolled back their odometers, and sold the cars to retail dealers at prices that were inflated by the low milage readings, and that the dealers relying on these readings then resold the cars to customers at inflated prices.

The transactions were consummated by the dealers’ mailing title application forms to the state on behalf of their customers.

Schmuck moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that these mailings were not in for furtherance of the fraudulent scheme, and he also moved for what is called a lessor included offense jury instruction on the crime of tampering with an odometer.

Both motions were denied and the jury returned guilty verdicts, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

We affirm that judgment.

We hold that the mailings at issue satisfy the mailing element of the federal crime of mail fraud that mailings were necessary for the successful passage of title to the cars and the failure of the passage of title would have jeopardized the petitioner’s relationship of trust with his dealers.

We also hold that for purposes of the lessor included offense instruction, the so-called elements test is to be utilized.

We reject the inherent relationship approach that has been adapted by some Courts of Appeals.

And the result in this case, is that petitioner, Schmuck, was not entitled to a lessor included offense instruction.

Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion and adjoined therein by Justice Brennan and Justice Marshall and Justice O’Connor.