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United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc.

(1994)

Supreme Court of the United States - 513 U.S. 64

tl;dr:

A child pornography statute that was ambiguous as to which elements required knowledge was interpreted by the Supreme Court to require mens rea for each element.

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ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc.

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Facts & HoldingUnited States v. X-Citement Video, Inc. case brief facts & holding

Facts:The defendant, the owner of X-Citement videos, was charged under...

Holding:The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, holding that the word...

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United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc. | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Chief Justice Rehnquist
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The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's decision that the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 was facially unconstitutional. The Court determined that the term "knowingly" in Title 18 U.S.C. § 2252 modifies the phrase "the use of a minor" and implies some form of scienter. The Court is cautious about relying solely on the grammatical reading of a statute, especially in criminal cases, and has previously interpreted criminal statutes to include a broad scienter requirement. The Court rejected the argument that the statute described a public welfare offense and emphasized the harsh penalties attached to violations of the statute as a significant consideration in determining whether the statute should be construed as dispensing with mens rea.

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Opinion (Concurrence), author: Justice Stevens,Justice Scalia
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Justice Stevens argues that the term "knowingly" in a criminal statute modifies each element of the offense identified in the subsection. However, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas disagree with this opinion, stating that the cases cited as authority do not support interpreting an explicit statutory scienter requirement in a manner that its language cannot bear. The Ninth Circuit's interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 is the only grammatical reading of the statute, which does not require knowledge of the fact that the visual depiction portrays sexually explicit conduct or that a participant in that conduct was a minor. The doctrine of "scrivener's error" cannot be used to rewrite a statute or correct a technical mistake in criminal cases where the meaning intended but inadequately expressed is not absolutely clear. The legislative history of the bill suggests that the requirement of scienter does not extend to the age of performers in cases involving sexually explicit conduct. The scienter requirement applies to the element of the crime that the depiction be of sexually explicit conduct, but not to the element that the depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in such conduct. It is important to note that Justice Stevens' argument may be in error as it contradicts what Congress has specifically prescribed regarding criminal intent.

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