APPEALS FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA.
Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone; Hughes took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Mr. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
These are appeals under § 266 of the Judicial Code, from final decrees of District Courts of three judges for the Northern District of California. Each, on motion to dismiss the complaint, dissolved a temporary injunction, dismissed the complaint and upheld the constitutionality of § 77 (b) and (c) of the Motor Vehicle Act of California, 1923 California Statutes, c. 266, as amended, 1927 California Statutes, c. 844. Section 36 (a) requires every motor vehicle operated upon the public highways of the state to be registered. Under § 77 (a) an annual fee of $3.00 is exacted for the registration of all motor vehicles. By subsections (b) and (c), printed in the margin so far as relevant,*fn1 a graduated license or registration fee, payable
in advance, is exacted for registration of motor vehicles used for transportation "of passengers for hire or for transportation of property." The duty of enforcing the Act is committed to the appellee, the Chief of the Division of Motor Vehicles, who is required to deposit the fees collected in the state treasury to the credit of the "motor vehicle fund." After deductions for the support of the Division of Motor Vehicles, the fund is required to be expended, one-half by paying it over to the counties, to be used by them in the construction and maintenance of public roads, the other half for the maintenance of state roads.
Under §§ 51 and 153 (c), operation of a motor vehicle for which the registration fees have not been paid is a
misdemeanor, punishable by fine of not more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. By § 81, fees not paid for thirty days after they become due are doubled. Their payment is secured by a lien upon the vehicles required to be registered, enforcible by seizure and sale.
Incorporated cities in California may enact ordinances requiring license fees for the operation of motor vehicles used in transporting passengers for hire, and property, within city limits. Constitution of California, Art. XI, §§ 11, 12; § 145 Motor Vehicle Act. It is conceded that all California cities have passed ordinances imposing such registration fees, varying from $5 to $42 per motor vehicle, in addition to those scheduled in § 77, and that 75% of the fees collected under these ordinances are applied to the maintenance of streets in cities.
The appellants in both suits are owners of motor vehicles of various types, described in § 77 (b) or (c), which appellants in No. 86 operate exclusively over highways within the limits of incorporated cities, and which appellants in No. 267 operate over highways principally within but partly without city limits. Both complaints assail the validity of the Act under the Constitution of California and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. The bill in No. 86 was filed December 29, 1928. Its allegations, admitted by the motion to dismiss, are that the appellants will be required to pay license fees for the ensuing year on or before January 31st, 1929, in order to use their motor vehicles upon streets of incorporated cities, and to avoid the destruction of their business and irreparable loss by the seizure and sale of their motor vehicles and the imposition of the penalties of the Act, which appellee threatens to enforce. See Packard v. Banton, 264 U.S. 140.
Appellants insist that the registration fees imposed by § 77 (b) and (c) are in effect tolls ...