Ex Parte Knight

Decision Date25 July 1906
Citation41 So. 786,52 Fla. 144
PartiesEx parte KNIGHT et al.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

In Banc. Petition by Robert J. Knight and W. C. Knight for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioners discharged from custody.

Syllabus by the Court

SYLLABUS

The writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to review a judgment of conviction, under which a prisoner is held, if the judgment is merely erroneous; but, if the judgment is assailed on the ground that it is void, because it is based of a charge made under an invalid provision of a statute, and the charge constitutes no offense under the laws of the state, the validity of the provision of the statute defining the offense may be determined on habeas corpus.

The purpose and effect of the constitutional requirement that 'each law enacted in the Legislature shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, which subject shall be briefly expressed in the title,' is to render inoperative any provision contained in the body of an act that is not fairly included in the subject expressed in the title, or that is not matter germane to or properly connected with that subject.

Under the constitutional provision as to the subject and title of a legislative act, only such provisions can be validly incorporated in the body of an act as are fairly included in one subject and matter properly connected therewith, which subject is the one expressed in the title of the act, and it may be as restrictive as the Legislature desires to make it.

Under the constitutional provision requiring the subject of a legislative act to be briefly expressed in the title, when the subject expressed in the title is restricted, only those provisions that are fairly included in such restricted subject and matter properly connected therewith can legally be incorporated in the body of the act, even though other provisions besides those contained in the act could have been included in one act having a single broader subject expressed in its title.

In determining whether provisions contained in a legislative act are embraced in one subject and matter properly connected therewith, the subject to be considered is the one expressed in the title of the act, and every fair intendment and reasonable doubt should be yielded in favor of the validity of the provision; but when an act contains provisions which after yielding all fair intendments and reasonable doubts are clearly not embraced in the subject of the act as expressed in the title, or in matter properly connected with that subject, such provisions are inoperative and without effect.

Where the subject of a legislative act as expressed in the title is restricted and confined to enactments 'to prevent the cutting or removing of any timber' from certain lands, a provision of the act designed to prevent 'the gathering or removing any turpentine extracted from the pine timber so cut or boxed' on the lands is not fairly included within the restricted subject as expressed in the title and matter properly connected therewith, and such provision is inoperative and void.

Where a provision of an act on which a charge is made is inoperative and void, a judgment of conviction on the charge is void, and persons held under such judgment will be discharged on habeas corpus.

COUNSEL

R. McConathy and H. M. Hampton, for petitioners.

W. H Ellis, Atty. Gen., and E. W. Davis, for the State.

OPINION

WHITFIELD, J.

A petition for a writ of habeas corpus was presented to one of the justices of this court in which it is alleged, in substance, that the petitioners were convicted in the court of the county judge of Citrus county, Fla., upon a charge that Robert J. Knight and W. C. Knight, not being the owners of certain described lands in Citrus county that had been sold for taxes and had not been redeemed, did 'cause and procure divers persons * * * to enter said lands and gather and remove turpentine extracted from the pine timber standing and growing thereon'; that upon appeal in a trial de novo the petitioners were likewise convicted in the circuit court for Citrus county, and a judgment of conviction was entered against them imposing a fine of $250 each, or imprisonment for six months; that said last trial and judgment are final and the petitioners are being restrained of their liberty thereunder without due process of law, in that the court was wholly without jurisdiction, since the charge under which they were convicted is not a crime under any valid law of this state. The writ of habeas corpus was issued by the justice as prayed for, and made returnable before the Supreme Court.

It is claimed that the charge under which the convictions were held is not an offense under the laws of this state, because that portion of the act on which the charge is founded is invalid, in that it is not embraced in the subject expressed in the title of the act and is not matter properly connected therewith.

While the writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to review a judgment of conviction under which a prisoner is held, if the judgment is merely erroneous, yet, if the judgment is assailed on the ground that it is void because it is based on a charge made under an invalid provision of a statute, and the charge constitutes no offense under the laws of the state, the validity of the provision of the statute defining the offense may be determined on habeas corpus. See Ex parte Bowen, 25 Fla. 214, 6 So. 65; Ex parte Hays, 25 Fla. 279, 6 So. 64; Bronk v. State, 43 Fla. 461, 31 So. 248, 99 Am. St. Rep. 119.

Section 16 of article 3 of the Constitution ordains that 'each law enacted in the Legislature shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, which subject shall be briefly expressed in the title.'

The purpose and effect of this constitutional requirement is to render inoperative any provision contained in the body of an act that is not fairly included in the subject expressed in the title or that is not matter germane to or properly connected with that subject. Only such provisions can validly be incorporated in the body of an act as are fairly included in one subject and matter properly connected therewith. The subject is the one that is expressed in the title of the act and such subject may be as restrictive as the Legislature desires to make it. When the subject expressed in the title is restricted, only those provisions that are fairly included in such restricted subject and matter properly connected therewith can legally be incorporated in the body of the act, even though other provisions besides those...

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59 cases
  • Ex Parte Beville
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • November 23, 1909
    ... ... Jr., 37 Fla. 1, 19 So. 652, 32 L. R. A. 133; Bronk v ... State, 43 Fla. 461, 31 So. 248, 99 Am. St. Rep. 119 ... See, also: Jackson v. State, 33 Fla. 620, 15 So ... 250; State v. Lewis, 55 Fla. 570, 46 So. 630; ... Hardee v. Brown, 56 Fla. 377, 47 So. 834; Ex parte ... Knight, 52 Fla. 144, 41 So. 786; Ex parte Fisk, 113 U.S. 713, ... 5 S.Ct. 724, 28 L.Ed. 1117 ... As ... shown by the record, the purpose of the order of the court ... which the petitioner declined to obey was not to require her ... to become a witness in the case, or to testify for her ... ...
  • City of Winter Haven v. A. M. Klemm & Son
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    • Florida Supreme Court
    • April 5, 1938
    ... ... 80 Fla. 541, 86 So. 508; State v. Palmes, 23 Fla ... 620, 3 So. 171; Webster v. Powell, 36 Fla. 703, 18 ... So. 441; Ex parte Knight, 52 Fla. 144, 41 So. 786, 120 ... Am.St.Rep. 191; Ex parte Gilletti, 70 Fla. 442, 70 So. 446 ... In this ... case a part of ... ...
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    • January 11, 1927
    ... ... So. 741; Ex parte Davidson, [93 Fla. 11] 76 Fla. 272, 79 So ... 727; Crooke v. Van Pelt, 76 Fla. 20, 79 So. 166 ... In ... other cases the court examined the statute under which the ... charge was made, and, finding it invalid, discharged the ... petitioner. See Ex parte Knight, 52 Fla. 144, 41 So. 786, 120 ... Am. St. Rep. 191; Harper v. Galloway, 58 Fla. 255, ... 51 So. 226, 19 Ann. Cas. 235, 26 L. R. A. (N. S.) 794, note ... If the ... acts charged constitute no offense, do not amount to a crime ... under the laws of the state, the court under whose ... ...
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    • March 29, 1928
    ... ... construction is possible, may be a limitation upon the ... enacting part of the law.' ... In Ex ... parte Knight, 52 Fla. 144, 41 So. 786, 120 Am. St. Rep. 191, ... this court said: ... 'The ... title is a part of the act and should be ... ...
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