Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368; 41 S. Ct. 513; 65 L. Ed. 994 (1921)

Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368; 41 S. Ct. 513; 65 L. Ed. 994 (1921)

Facts—Dillon was taken into custody under the National Prohibition Act of October 28, 1919 for transporting intoxicating liquor. He petitioned the court and sought to be discharged on a writ of habeas corpus from the court on grounds: (1) that the Eighteenth Amendment was invalid because the congressional resolution proposing the amendment declared that it should be inoperative unless ratified within seven years, and (2) that the act which he was charged with violating, and under which he was arrested, had not gone into effect at the time of the asserted violation nor at the time of the arrest. The Eighteenth Amendment was ratified January 16, 1919, but the secretary of state had not proclaimed its ratification until January 29, 1919. Dillon committed the violation on January 17, 1920. By the terms of the act it was to have gone into effect one year after being ratified. Dillon asserted it should have gone into effect one year after being proclaimed by the secretary of state, which would have been January 29, 1920.


(a) Can Congress set a reasonable time limit on the ratification of an amendment?

(b) On what date does the ratification take effect?


(a) Yes;

(b) The day the last required state ratifies the amendment is the date the amendment becomes part of the Constitution.

ReasonsJ. Van Devanter (9–0). (a) Article V discloses that it is intended to invest Congress with a wide range of power in proposing amendments. That the Constitution contains no express provision on the time limit for ratification is not in itself controlling, for with the Constitution, as with a statute or other written instruments, what is reasonably implied is as much a part of it as what is expressed. Proposal and ratification are but necessary steps in a single endeavor. There is a fair implication that ratification must be sufficiently con temporaneous in the required number of states to reflect the will of the people in all sections at relatively the same period, and hence that ratification must be within some reasonable time after the proposal.

The court held that Article V impliedly gives Congress a wide range of power in proposing amendments, and therefore a time limit of seven years for ratification is a reasonable use of this power.

(b) The Court held that the amendment takes effect the day the last state ratifies it, which is not necessarily the date when the secretary of state proclaims the amendment.

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