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Moskal v. United States

(1990)

Supreme Court of the United States - 498 U.S. 103

tl;dr:

Someone who knowingly acquires genuine vehicle titles with fraudulent odometer readings knows that the titles were falsely made and thus has violated the National Stolen Property Act.

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ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for Moskal v. United States

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Facts & HoldingMoskal v. United States case brief facts & holding

Facts:The National Stolen Property Act imposes a fine on persons...

Holding:Holding (Marshall): In interpreting the term “falsely made” in the...

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Moskal v. United States | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Justice Marshall
Level 1
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Raymond Moskal was convicted of using genuine vehicle titles with fraudulently altered odometer readings to sell cars to unsuspecting buyers. Moskal argued that the titles were genuine, but the Court of Appeals disagreed. The Supreme Court affirmed Moskal's conviction, stating that the altered titles violated the provision because he participated in a fraud and had the requisite intent. The Court rejected Moskal's argument that the washed titles were not "falsely made" because they were issued by appropriate state authorities who did not know of their falsity. The Supreme Court interpreted the phrase "falsely made" in §2314 broadly to include securities with false information, consistent with Congress' intent to curb the trafficking of fraudulent securities that exploit interstate commerce. Moskal failed to demonstrate an established meaning of "falsely made" at common law, and there is ample reason to apply the law to a fraudulent scheme for washing vehicle titles based on the plain meaning of the words in §2314 and the legislative purpose underlying them.

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Dissenting opinion, author: Justice Scalia
Level 1
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Justice Scalia dissented from the Court's opinion, arguing that the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, which includes documents containing false information, undermines statutory construction principles. He contends that the adverb "falsely" refers to the manner of making, not the nature of the product made. The term "falsely made" is a common law term that describes an essential element of the crime of forgery. The Court's decision today is incompatible with Gilbert's holding. The Court in Gilbert found it significant that other federal statutes drew a distinction between false or fraudulent statements and spurious or fictitious makings when construing "forge." Therefore, it is incompatible with that rationale to hold that inserting fraudulent content constitutes false making.

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