170 U.S. 606 (1898), 198, Ledbetter v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 198
Citation:170 U.S. 606, 18 S.Ct. 774, 42 L.Ed. 1162
Party Name:Ledbetter v. United States
Case Date:May 23, 1898
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 606

170 U.S. 606 (1898)

18 S.Ct. 774, 42 L.Ed. 1162

Ledbetter

v.

United States

No. 198

United States Supreme Court

May 23, 1898

Submitted April 12, 1898

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA

Syllabus

An indictment for a violation of the provisions of section 16 of the Act of February 8, 1875, c. 36, forbidding the carrying on of the business of a rectifier, wholesale liquor dealer, etc., without first having paid the special tax required by law, which charges the offense in the language of the statute creating it, is sufficient, and it comes within the rule, well settled in this Court, that where the crime is a statutory one, it must be charged with precision and certainty, and every ingredient of which it is composed must be clearly and accurately set forth, and that even in the

Page 607

cases of misdemeanors, the indictment must be free from all ambiguity,

and leave no doubt in the minds of the accused and of the court of the exact offense intended to be charged. Properly speaking, the indictment should state not only the county, but the township, city or other municipality within which the crime is alleged to have been committed; but the authorities in this particular are much less rigid than formerly.

[18 S.Ct. 774] This was a writ of error to review the conviction of the plaintiff in error to review the conviction found against him by the grand jury for the Southern District of Iowa, April 28, 1896, for a violation of section 16 of the Act of February 8, 1875, c. 36, 18 Stat. 307, in carrying on the business of a retail dealer in liquors without the payment of the special tax required by law.

Defendant was convicted upon the first count in the indictment, which reads as follows:

The grand jurors of the United States of America duly impaneled, sworn, and charged to inquire in and for the body of said Southern District of Iowa at a term of the United States district court begun and held at Keokuk, in said district, on the 14th day of April, A.D. 1896, in the name and by the authority of the United States of America, upon their oaths do find and present that Lewis Ledbetter, late of said district, heretofore, to-wit, on the ___ day of April, A.D. 1896, in the County of Appanoose, in the Southern District of Iowa, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously carry on the business of a retail liquor dealer without having paid the special tax therefor, as required by law, contrary to the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the United States of America.

After his conviction, defendant moved for an arrest of judgment upon the insufficiency of the indictment. This motion was overruled, and the defendant sentenced to pay a fine of $250 and costs of prosecution.

Defendant thereupon sued out a writ of error from this Court, assigning as error that the indictment did not state facts constituting an offense against the laws of the United

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States (1) because it did not set forth that the defendant sold or offered for sale foreign or domestic spirituous or malt liquors otherwise than as provided by law, (2) that he was not informed with sufficient particularity as to the time and place and means so as to apprise him of the crime of which he was charged, and (3) that the indictment did not allege that any crime had been committed at a date prior to the finding of the indictment.

BROWN, J., lead opinion

[18 S.Ct. 775] MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

Defendant did not demur to the indictment, nor move to quash or take advantage of its alleged insufficiency upon the trial, but, after conviction, moved in arrest of judgment upon the ground that it failed to aver with sufficient particularity the details of the offense and the time and place of its commission.

1. The principal alleged defect in the indictment is set forth in the third, fourth, and fifth assignments of error, which charge that the indictment did not state facts which would constitute an offense against the laws in that it did not allege that the defendant sold or offered for sale foreign or domestic distilled spirits, wines, or malt liquors otherwise than as provided by law, or any of said liquors, or to whom said liquors were sold or offered for sale, and because it did not allege that defendants had sold or offered for sale any of said liquors in quantities less than five wine gallons at the same time, and because the indictment did not allege that the defendant had not paid $25, the amount of the tax provided by the statute, and, generally, because the allegations of the indictment are only a legal conclusion, unsupported by

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the primary and individualizing facts which constituted an offense, etc.

By section 16 of the Act of February 8, 1875, c. 36, 18 Stat. 307, 310, under which defendant was convicted, it is provided that

any person who shall carry on the business of a . . . retail liquor dealer . . . without having paid the special tax as required by law . . . shall, for every such offense, be fined,

etc., and the first count of the indictment charged, in the very words of this section, that the defendant

did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously carry on the business of a retail liquor dealer without having paid the special tax therefor, as required by law, contrary to the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States of America.

Defendant insists that is was not sufficient to charge him with the offense in the language of the statute, but that the indictment should have set forth the particular facts which showed that he was a retail liquor dealer, and should also have averred that he had not paid the tax of $25 provided by law.

By section 18 of the same act, retail tax of in liquor are required to pay a special tax of $25, and

every person who sells or offers for sale foreign or domestic distilled spirits, wines or malt liquors, otherwise than as hereinafter provided, in less quantities than five wine gallons at the same time, shall be regarded as a retail dealer in liquors.

The question presented for our...

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