United States v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482, 11 (1997)

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492

UNITED STATES v. WELLS

Opinion of the Court

Statutory history confirms the natural reading. When Congress originally enacted 1014 as part of its recodification of the federal criminal code in 1948, 62 Stat. 752, it explicitly included materiality in other provisions involving false representations.11 Even more significantly, of the 13 provisions brought together by 1014, 10 had previously contained no express materiality provision and received none in the recodification,12 while 3 of the 13 had contained express

term "material," see 485 U. S., at 769, not the common-law meaning of "misrepresentation" or "false statement." Although Kungys supports the view that "materiality" has the same meaning in criminal statutes that prohibit falsehoods to public officials, whether the statutes refer to misrepresentations, see id., at 772-776, or to some form of false statements, see id., at 779-782, that does not mean that "misrepresentation" and "false statement" are identical in carrying an implicit requirement of materiality. Indeed, Kungys distinguished between the common-law meaning of "misrepresentation" and "false testimony," concluding that while the former had been held to carry a materiality requirement in many contexts, the terms "false" or "falsity" did not as frequently carry such an implication. Id., at 781.

More fundamentally, we disagree with our colleague's apparent view that any term that is an element of a common-law crime carries with it every other aspect of that common-law crime when the term is used in a statute. Justice Stevens seems to assume that because "false statement" is an element of perjury, and perjury criminalizes only material statements, a statute criminalizing "false statements" covers only material statements. See post, at 504. By a parity of reasoning, because common-law perjury involved statements under oath, a statute criminalizing a false statement would reach only statements under oath. It is impossible to believe that Congress intended to impose such restrictions sub silentio, however, and so our rule on imputing common-law meaning to statutory terms does not sweep so broadly.

11 See 18 U. S. C. 1621, 62 Stat. 773 (entitled "Perjury generally," and prohibiting statements under oath regarding "any material matter which [one] does not believe to be true"); 18 U. S. C. 1001, 62 Stat. 749 (entitled "Statements or entries generally," and prohibiting, inter alia, "knowingly and willfully falsif[ying] . . . a material fact").

12 See 7 U. S. C. 1514(a) (1946 ed.) ("mak[ing] any statement knowing it to be false . . . for the purpose of influencing"); 12 U. S. C. 981 (1946 ed.) ("knowingly mak[ing] any false statement in an application for [a] loan");

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