282 U.S. 63 (1930), 96, District of Columbia v. Colts

Docket NºNo. 96
Citation282 U.S. 63, 51 S.Ct. 52, 75 L.Ed. 177
Party NameDistrict of Columbia v. Colts
Case DateNovember 24, 1930
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 63

282 U.S. 63 (1930)

51 S.Ct. 52, 75 L.Ed. 177

District of Columbia

v.

Colts

No. 96

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 24, 1930

Argued October 23, 1930

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

1. Article III, § 2, cl. 3, of the Constitution, which provides that "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury," must be interpreted in the light of the common law, according to which petty offenses might be proceeded against summarily before a magistrate sitting without a jury. P. 72.

2. It is settled that there may be many offenses called "petty offenses" which do not rise to the degree of "crimes" within the meaning of Article III, and in respect of which Congress may dispense with a jury trial. Id.

3. Whether a given offense is to be classed as a crime, so as to require a jury trial, or as a petty offense, triable summarily without a jury, depends primarily upon the nature of the offense. P. 73.

4. Driving at a forbidden rate of speed and so recklessly "as to endanger property and individuals," in violation of the District of Columbia Traffic Act, is an offense which is malum in se and of a serious character, amounting to a public nuisance indictable at common law, and is a "crime" within the constitutional guarantee of trial by jury. Art. III, § 2, cl. 3. Id.

38 F.2d 535 affirmed.

Certiorari, 281 U.S. 716, to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, reversing a judgment of the Police Court, which had denied to the

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respondent a jury trial upon an information against him charging reckless driving.

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SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

An information filed in the Police Court of the District of Columbia charged the respondent, Colts, with having operated upon various streets, contrary to the statute set forth below,

a certain motor vehicle at a greater rate of speed than twenty-two miles an hour over said public highway[s] recklessly, that is to say at a greater rate of speed than was reasonable and proper, having regard to the width of said public highway[s], the use thereof, and the traffic thereon, in such manner and condition so as to endanger property and individuals.

Respondent was arraigned, pleaded not guilty, and demanded a trial by jury. The demand was denied, and he was put upon trial before the judge without a jury and found guilty. Upon writ

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of error, the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia reversed the judgment, holding that respondent, under the federal Constitution, was entitled to a jury trial. With that conclusion, we agree.

The acts of Congress passed for the government of the District provide that prosecutions in the police court shall be on information; that, where the accused would be entitled to a jury trial under the Constitution, trial shall be by jury unless waived, and that, in cases where the accused would not by force of the Constitution be entitled to a trial by jury, trial shall be by the court without a jury unless, in cases where the fine or penalty may be more than $300 or imprisonment more than ninety days, the accused shall demand a trial by jury, in which case the trial shall be by jury. D.C.Code (1930), Title 18, c. 4, § 165.

Section 9 of the District of Columbia Traffic Act 1925, as amended, D.C.Code (1930), Title 6, c. 9, § 246, provides:

(a) No vehicle shall be operated upon any public highway in the District at a speed greater than twenty-two miles per hour except in such outlying districts and upon such highways as the...

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123 practice notes
  • 54 F.2d 220 (10th Cir. 1931), 510, Woody v. Utah Power & Light Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • December 11, 1931
    ...operating on the crowded streets of large cities. Schweinhaut v. Flaherty (App.D.C.) 49 F.2d 533; District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 51 S.Ct. 52, 75 L.Ed. The owner of a motor vehicle is liable for injuries to a third person caused by the negligent operation thereof by the owner's ......
  • 260 N.Y. 138, People v. Grogan
    • United States
    • New York New York Court of Appeals
    • November 22, 1932
    ...451; People v. Rosenheimer, 209 N.Y. 115; People v. Waxman, 232 A.D. 90; Woloszynowski v. New York Co., 254 N.Y. 206; District v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63; People v. Nixon, 248 N.Y. 182.) The information does not charge a criminal offense. (People v. Zambounis, 251 N.Y. 94; People v. Butler, 133 ......
  • 39 N.W.2d 772 (Wis. 1949), City of Oshkosh v. Lloyd
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • November 15, 1949
    ...1911, 111 Wis. 413, 87 N.W. 568, 55 L.R.A. 506. See also Annotation, Offenses as to which a jury trial is a constitutional right, 1930, 75 L.Ed. 177, 197. The statutory provision for revocation of the license adds nothing to the ordinance. It is a mere incidental consequence of violation of......
  • 50 F.2d 986 (D.D.C. 1931), 5019, Turoff v. Burch
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • June 1, 1931
    ...for the court, observed 'that conditions in this respect are growing worse rather than better. ' In District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 51 S.Ct. 52, 53, 75 L.Ed. 177, decided November 24, 1930, the Supreme Court declared that an automobile is, 'potentially, a dangerous instrumentali......
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120 cases
  • 54 F.2d 220 (10th Cir. 1931), 510, Woody v. Utah Power & Light Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • December 11, 1931
    ...operating on the crowded streets of large cities. Schweinhaut v. Flaherty (App.D.C.) 49 F.2d 533; District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 51 S.Ct. 52, 75 L.Ed. The owner of a motor vehicle is liable for injuries to a third person caused by the negligent operation thereof by the owner's ......
  • 260 N.Y. 138, People v. Grogan
    • United States
    • New York New York Court of Appeals
    • November 22, 1932
    ...451; People v. Rosenheimer, 209 N.Y. 115; People v. Waxman, 232 A.D. 90; Woloszynowski v. New York Co., 254 N.Y. 206; District v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63; People v. Nixon, 248 N.Y. 182.) The information does not charge a criminal offense. (People v. Zambounis, 251 N.Y. 94; People v. Butler, 133 ......
  • 39 N.W.2d 772 (Wis. 1949), City of Oshkosh v. Lloyd
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • November 15, 1949
    ...1911, 111 Wis. 413, 87 N.W. 568, 55 L.R.A. 506. See also Annotation, Offenses as to which a jury trial is a constitutional right, 1930, 75 L.Ed. 177, 197. The statutory provision for revocation of the license adds nothing to the ordinance. It is a mere incidental consequence of violation of......
  • 50 F.2d 986 (D.D.C. 1931), 5019, Turoff v. Burch
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • June 1, 1931
    ...for the court, observed 'that conditions in this respect are growing worse rather than better. ' In District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 51 S.Ct. 52, 53, 75 L.Ed. 177, decided November 24, 1930, the Supreme Court declared that an automobile is, 'potentially, a dangerous instrumentali......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK: THE CREATURE OF A MUNICIPAL ORDINANCE VIOLATION IN SOUTH DAKOTA.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 3, January 2019
    • January 1, 2019
    ...to conflict with the Wikle Court's finding that a speeding violation had no common law basis. Id. (quoting District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 73 (79.) S.D.C.L. [section] 16-12B-11 (2017). (80.) S.D.C.L. [section] 9-19-3.1; S.D.C.L. [section] 23-1A-17; S.D.C.L. [section] 23A-1-1. (8......
  • Judicial fact-finding and sentence enhancements in a world of guilty pleas.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 110 Nbr. 7, May 2001
    • May 1, 2001
    ...has implied that at common law, mala prohibita could be petty offenses while mala in se could not. See District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 73 (1930). But the historical evidence suggests that the category of petty offenses was even narrower. The elder Justice Harlan argued that the ......
  • Charging on the margin.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 57 Nbr. 3, February - February 2016
    • February 1, 2016
    ...the nature of the offense and on whether it was triable by a jury at common law." Id. at 541 (citing District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63, 73 (1930)); see Callan v. Wilson, 127 U.S. 540, 555-57 (1888). See generally Colleen P. Murphy, The Narrowing of the Entitlement to Criminal ......