United States of America
Inspections, Criminal, Constitutional
This appeal drew in question the constitutional validity of certain provisions of Detroit’s Smoke Abatement Code as applied to ships operated in interstate commerce. The appellant maintained a fleet of five vessels which it used to transport cement The ship’s boiler stacks emitted black smoke which, in density and duration, exceeded the maximum standards allowable under the Detroit Smoke Abatement Code. Criminal proceedings were instituted against the appellant for violations of the city law during periods when the vessels were docked at the Port of Detroit. The appellants claimed that the ordinance could not constitutionally be applied to appellant’s ships. They argued, among others, that the vessels and their equipment, including their boilers, had been licensed to operate in interstate commerce in accordance with a comprehensive system of regulation enacted by Congress. Therefore the City of Detroit may not legislate in such a way as, in effect, to impose additional or inconsistent standards. The Supreme Court held that the criminal provisions of the Smoke Abatement Code of the City of Detroit were constitutional. The federal inspection laws, which were designed to afford protection from the perils of maritime navigation, did not prevent local regulation to protect the health and enhance the cleanliness of the local community, and the local regulation here involved did not unconstitutionally burden the federal licenses issued to these vessels.