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Liparota v. United States

471 U.S. 419 (1985)

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Liparota v. United States

United States Supreme Court

471 U.S. 419 (1985)

Facts

Under the federal regulations governing food stamps, a person was not authorized to acquire food stamps by purchasing them from another individual. A federal statute also made it a crime for anyone to knowingly acquire food stamps in an unauthorized manner. On three separate occasions, Frank Liparota (defendant) purchased food stamps from undercover agents for significantly less than the face value of the stamps. The stamps were marked with the word nontransferable, and Liparota arranged for the purchases to occur in the back room of his sandwich shop, out of view of the public. Liparota was criminally charged with knowingly acquiring food stamps in an unauthorized manner. At trial, Liparota argued that he could be found guilty only if he knew that his method of acquiring the food stamps was unauthorized. The trial court ruled that Liparota was guilty if (1) he knew that he was acquiring food stamps and (2) the acquisition method was unauthorized, regardless of whether Liparota knew that the method was unlawful. Liparota was convicted, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction. The United States Supreme Court agreed to review whether knowledge of the acquisition method’s unlawfulness was an element of the crime.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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