77 S.E.2d 917 (N.C. 1953), 145, State v. Greer

Docket Nº:145
Citation:77 S.E.2d 917, 238 N.C. 325
Party Name:STATE, v. GREER.
Case Date:October 14, 1953
Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 917

77 S.E.2d 917 (N.C. 1953)

238 N.C. 325




No. 145

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

October 14, 1953

Page 918

Harry McMullan, Atty. Gen., and Claude L. Love, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

W. D. Lonon, Marion, and W. E. Anglin, Burnsville, for defendant, appellant.

PARKER, Justice.

Before pleading to the bill of indictment the defendant made a motion to quash it upon two grounds: '(1) The bill of indictment fails to charge the defendant with a criminal offense; and (2) The bill of indictment fails to charge that the defendant made any offer to influence unlawfully a State Highway Patrolman in any public or official capacity.'

The trial court overruled the motion, and the defendant excepted. This is the defendant's assignment of error No. 1, based on his exception No. 1.

The Constitution of North Carolina guarantees that in all criminal prosecutions every person has the right to be informed of the accusation against him, and not to be

Page 919

put to answer any criminal charge, except as otherwise provided by our Constitution, but by indictment, presentment or impeachment. Art. I, §§ 11 and 12.

[238 N.C. 327] Similar provisions in the U. S. Constitution, which are not a restriction on the states in this respect, 42 C.J.S., Indictments and Informations § 90, page 957, and in the Constitutions of the various states, which are a substantial redeclaration of the common law rule, are one of the chief glories of the administration of criminal law in our courts, for they are in strict accord with our inherited and 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'

The authorities are in unison that an indictment, whether at common law or under a statute, to be good must allege lucidly and accurately all the essential elements of the offense endeavored to be charged. The purpose of such constitutional provisions is: (1) such certainty in the statement of the accusation as will identify the offense with which the accused is sought to be charged, (2) to protect the accused from being twice put in jeopardy for the same offense, (3) to enable the accused to prepare for trial, and (4) to enable the court, on conviction or plea of nolo contendere or guilty to pronounce sentence according to the rights of the case. State v. Cole, 202 N.C. 592, 163 S.E. 594; State v. Gregory, 223 N.C. 415, 27 S.E.2d 140; State v. Morgan, 226 N.C. 414, 38 S.E.2d 166; State v. Miller, 231 N.C. 419, 57 S.E. 2d 392; State v. Gibbs, 234 N.C. 259, 66 S.E.2d 883.

For generations attempts have been made, with varying degrees of success, to simplify forms of indictment. Such attempts may not be thwarted by insistence upon the preservation of outworn legalistic formulas, which grew up when the punishment of crime was so severe as in many cases to shock the moral sense of lawyers, judges and the people generally. It was then to the credit of humanity that technicalities were invoked to prevent the cruelty of a literal enforcement of the law. To simplify forms of indictment G.S. § 15-153 was enacted which in respect to quashing indictments provides in respect to indictments that every criminal proceeding by indictment is sufficient in form for all intents and purposes if it expresses the charge in a plain, intelligible, and explicit manner, and the same shall not be quashed, by reason of any informality or refinement, if in the bill sufficient matters appear to enable the court to proceed to judgment.

Quashing indictments is not favored. State v. Flowers, 109 N.C. 841, 13 S.E. 718. This statute has received a very liberal construction. State v. Carpenter, 173 N.C. 767, 92 S.E. 373.

In State v. Cole, supra [202 N.C. 592, 163 S.E. 596], the Court quotes with approval these words from State v. Hathcock, 29 N.C. 52, "Every indictment is a compound of law and fact, and must be so drawn, that the Court can, upon its inspection, be able to perceive the alleged crime.' ' In speaking of C.S. 4623, now G.S. § 15-153, the Court farther on in this case said: 'By the many adjudications construing this section it has been definitely settled that the section neither [238 N.C. 328] supplies nor remedies the omission of any distinct averment of any fact or circumstance which is an essential constituent of the offense charged.' To the same effect State v. Gibbs, supra.

Our statute as to offering bribes is G.S. § 14-218 'if any person shall offer a...

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