Brief Fact Summary. The possession of individual, unbound depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct was the reason for the apprehension of a man in a state park.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Within the meaning of the federal Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act, individual pictures are not “other matter which contain any visual depiction”.
A statute is not ambiguous for purposes of lenity merely because it is possible to articulate a construction more narrow than that urged by the Government.View Full Point of Law
Issue. (Jacobs, J.) No. Within the meaning of the federal Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act, individual pictures are not “other matter which contain any visual depiction”. To interpret statutes, using plain meaning is the first step but in this particular case, it yields no clear answers. The meaning attached to “other matter” or “contain” in the dictionary is in consonance with both parties readings of the statute, and there was no judicial precedent of the case that answered the question presented by this case. This is also compounded based on the fact that Congress did not define “other matter” or “contain”. Cannons of construction are used next by the courts in interpreting statutes while legislative history are consulted by the courts as last resort in interpreting statutes. But in this case, history shed no light on the meaning of “other matter” or “contain”. The only conclusion the court can come to is that the statute violated Dauray’s (D) due process right to be prosecuted under a statute which gave him fair warning of the proscribed conduct. The requirement of the rule of lenity is for the ambiguities in this statute to be resolved in the favor of Dauray (D). Reversed
Dissent. (Katzmann, J) The requirement of the rule of lenity is that “a grievous ambiguity or uncertainty in the statute” and this standard is not present here.
Discussion. This case was resolved by the majority on the panel of the Second Circuit by going back to the rule of lenity. The statute cannot be enforced consistently with due process in a situation where by the court can only guess at the legislature’s meaning in a criminal statute.