156 N.Y. 302, People v. Knatt

Citation156 N.Y. 302
Party NameTHE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Respondent, v. JUSTUS KNATT, Appellant.
Case DateJune 07, 1898
CourtNew York Court of Appeals

Page 302

156 N.Y. 302

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, Respondent,

v.

JUSTUS KNATT, Appellant.

New York Court of Appeal

June 7, 1898

Argued April 20, 1898.

Page 303

COUNSEL

W. H. Sullivan for appellant. The demurrer to the indictment ought to have been sustained and the indictment dismissed, for the reason that a Court of Special Sessions alone had exclusive jurisdiction of the offenses charged in the indictment, as no order was made or certificate granted under section 57 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, transferring the matters to the consideration of the grand jury which found the indictment, and that being so, this judgment is illegal and void. ( People ex rel. v. Davy, 32 N.Y.S. 106; Code Crim. Pro. §§ 21, 22, 56, 57; Penal Code, § § 655, 660, 669, subd. 2; 2 Edmunds R. S. 711, art. 3, § 16.) The demurrer to the indictment ought to have been sustained and the indictment dismissed for the further reason that two crimes were charged therein. ( People v. Upton, 38 Hun, 107; People v. O'Donnell, 46 Hun, 358, 362; People v. Wilson, 151 N.Y. 403; People v. McCarthy, 110 N.Y. 314; Code Crim. Pro. §§ 323, 331; People v. Harmon, 49 Hun, 558; 2 N.Y.S. 421; 112 N.Y. 666; Code Crim. Pro. §§ 278, 279.)

S. J. Warren for respondent. The wrongful and unlawful destruction of personal property, animate or inanimate, is an indictable offense under section 654 of the Penal Code. (Penal Code, § § 655, 660; Crim. Code, subd. 27, § 56; People v. Christy, 47 N.Y. S. R. 924.) A crime may be charged in separate counts in the same indictment to have been committed in a different manner, where each count refers to the same transaction. ( Taylor v. People, 12 Hun, 213; People v. Infield, 1 N.Y. Crim. Rep. 146; People v. Cole, 2 N.Y. Crim. Rep. 108; People v. Lenhardt, 4 N.Y. Crim. Rep. 317; People v. Crotty, 30 N.Y. S. R. 44; People v. Rose, 39 N.Y. S. R. 291; People v. Rugg, 98 N.Y. 537; People

Page 304

v. Adler, 140 N.Y. 331; People v. Emerson, 53 Hun, 437; People v. Menken, 36 Hun, 90; Hawker v. People, 75 N.Y. 487.)

O'BRIEN, J.

The defendant was indicted and convicted under section 654 of the Penal Code for the crime of willfully and maliciously destroying personal property. The specific act charged in the indictment is, that the defendant willfully and maliciously mixed poison with salt, and scattered the same in a pasture where the cattle of another were kept, with the intent that the poison so mixed with salt should be taken by the cattle; that it was so taken, and as a result three cows and a bull were destroyed. The indictment was found in the Court of Oyer and Terminer on the 27th of January, 1893, and sent to the Court of Sessions, where a trial and conviction were had. The defendant demurred to the indictment on the ground, among others, that the court in which the indictment was found had no jurisdiction of the case, since the offense was a misdemeanor within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Special Sessions, unless the certificate provided by section 57 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been made in the case, and it is conceded that it was not. The demurrer was overruled and the defendant put upon trial and convicted. He then appealed to the Appellate Division from the judgment of conviction and from the order overruling the demurrer, where both were affirmed, and the defendant now appeals to this court from the judgment of affirmance.

The defendant, after the verdict, moved for a new trial and in arrest of judgment, on the ground that the Court of Sessions had no jurisdiction, and this motion was denied. The question with respect to the jurisdiction of the court was raised by the demurrer and is now before us by the appeal from the order overruling it.

Section 654 of the Penal Code declares that the willful and unlawful destruction of the real or personal property of another is a felony, but the section by its own terms is limited to cases 'where the punishment is not specially prescribed

Page 305

by statute. 'A statute so sweeping and general as this is could by a liberal construction be extended to cases that were not within the purpose of the legislature. Almost every crime against property involves, in some sense, its destruction or injury. The crime of arson for instance involves nearly always the willful and unlawful destruction of the property of another, but it cannot be supposed for a moment that such an offense is included within the scope of the section. That provision of the Code was manifestly intended to cover cases that had not been provided for by any other law. Its purpose is expressed in clear language, and, therefore, if we can find any other statute that provides for the punishment of the offense of poisoning cattle, the conclusion that it does not fall within this section is irresistible.

Section 660 of the Penal Code enacts that 'a person who unjustifiably administers any poisonous or noxious drug or substance to an animal, or unjustifiably exposes any such drug or substance with intent that the same shall be taken by an animal, whether such animal be the property of himself or another, is guilty of a misdemeanor. 'By section 15 of the same Code misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary or county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by both. Thus it appears that the specific act for which the defendant was indicted and convicted is declared to be a misdemeanor and punishable as such. Even if there was doubt with respect to the question as to which of these two sections applies to the wrongful act with which the defendant was charged, we would, I think, according to all the principles and analogies of the criminal law, be required to hold that it was a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Courts are not justified in giving a strained or extreme construction to criminal statutes in order to bring some particular act within their scope, when it is plain that the same act is covered by another statute defining offenses of an inferior grade. Hence, we must conclude that the offense charged in this indictment was not a felony, but a misdemeanor.

Page 306

By section 56 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the Special Sessions, except in two cities named, have in the first instance exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine misdemeanors committed within their respective counties as there specified and enumerated, and in this specification are included crimes against the provisions of existing laws for the...

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38 practice notes
  • 138 A.D.2d 217, People v. Snow
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Fourth Department
    • July 7, 1988
    ...People v. Valenza, 60 N.Y.2d 363, 371, 469 N.Y.S.2d 642, 457 N.E.2d 748; People v. Costello, 305 N.Y. 63, 110 N.E.2d 880; People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835). Moreover, we must be careful to construe provisions of the penal law "according to the fair import of their terms to pr......
  • 123 Misc.2d 1042, People v. Walsh
    • United States
    • April 2, 1984
    ...supra ). The filing of an indictment in violation of statutory authority can never confer jurisdiction upon a court. (People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835; People v. Tekben, supra; People v. Sutton, supra ). The issue thus raised by defendants' motion relates to the very basis of this......
  • 284 N.Y. 93, People v. Hines
    • United States
    • New York United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • October 8, 1940
    ...N.Y. 598; People ex rel. Lawrence v. Fallon, 152 N.Y. 12; Matter of Dwyer, 14 Misc. 204; People v. Adams, 176 N.Y. 351; People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302; People v. Weber, 245 A.D. 827.) The proof fails to establish that the defendant 'assisted in contriving, proposing or drawing a lottery, ' P......
  • 82 A.D.2d 516, People v. Lyon
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Second Department
    • August 31, 1981
    ...they represent, is no bar to prosecution. Unless there is evidence of legislative intent to the contrary (see, e.g., People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835), the existence of a specific statute prohibiting the conduct involved, does not prevent prosecution under a more general statute. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • 138 A.D.2d 217, People v. Snow
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Fourth Department
    • July 7, 1988
    ...People v. Valenza, 60 N.Y.2d 363, 371, 469 N.Y.S.2d 642, 457 N.E.2d 748; People v. Costello, 305 N.Y. 63, 110 N.E.2d 880; People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835). Moreover, we must be careful to construe provisions of the penal law "according to the fair import of their terms to pr......
  • 123 Misc.2d 1042, People v. Walsh
    • United States
    • April 2, 1984
    ...supra ). The filing of an indictment in violation of statutory authority can never confer jurisdiction upon a court. (People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835; People v. Tekben, supra; People v. Sutton, supra ). The issue thus raised by defendants' motion relates to the very basis of this......
  • 284 N.Y. 93, People v. Hines
    • United States
    • New York United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • October 8, 1940
    ...N.Y. 598; People ex rel. Lawrence v. Fallon, 152 N.Y. 12; Matter of Dwyer, 14 Misc. 204; People v. Adams, 176 N.Y. 351; People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302; People v. Weber, 245 A.D. 827.) The proof fails to establish that the defendant 'assisted in contriving, proposing or drawing a lottery, ' P......
  • 82 A.D.2d 516, People v. Lyon
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Second Department
    • August 31, 1981
    ...they represent, is no bar to prosecution. Unless there is evidence of legislative intent to the contrary (see, e.g., People v. Knatt, 156 N.Y. 302, 50 N.E. 835), the existence of a specific statute prohibiting the conduct involved, does not prevent prosecution under a more general statute. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results