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PRICE V. ILLINOIS, 238 U. S. 446 (1915)

U.S. Supreme Court

Price v. Illinois, 238 U.S. 446 (1915)

Price v. Illinois

No. 274

Argued May 12, 1915

Decided June 21, 1915

238 U.S. 446


This Court accepts the decision of the highest court of the state as to the construction of a pure food statute and whether specified articles are included within the prohibitions thereof, and then determines whether, as so construed, the statute is valid under the federal Constitution.

The police power of the state extends to imposing restrictions having reasonable relation to preserving the health of its people.

The nature and extent of such restrictions are matters for legislative judgment in defining the policy of the state, and are within the power of the state unless palpably unreasonable and arbitrary.

A prohibition against the sale of food preservatives containing boric acid is not so unreasonable and arbitrary as to amount to deprivation of property without due process of law.

It is not enough to condemn a police statute as unconstitutional under the due process clause that the innocuousness of the prohibited article be debatable, for, if debatable, the legislature is entitled to its own judgment.

In enacting a police statute, the legislature is not limited to general directions, but may prohibit the sale of such specific articles as it deems injurious.

The legislature may estimate degrees of evil and adjust its legislation according to the existing exigency; and, without offending the equal protection provision of the Constitution, may prohibit the sale of particular articles -- such as food preservatives containing boric acid -- if it does not exceed bounds of reasonable classification.

This Court will not assume that goods are shipped from state to state in small retail packages, and where the character of the shipment is not shown, such packages cannot be classed with the "original packages" within the rule protecting such packages from subjection to the police laws of the state.

In this case, no question of the conflict of the state law with action by Congress in regard to interstate shipment of food is involved.

The provisions of the Pure Food Law of Illinois of 1907 prohibiting sale of food preservatives containing boric acid are not unconstitutional

Page 238 U. S. 447

under the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, or a to the sale within that the article involved in this action in the package in which they were sold, under the Commerce Clause of the federal Constitution.

257 Ill. 587 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Pure Food Statute of Illinois of 1907, are stated in the opinion.

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