Hudson v. United States, No. 307

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTONE
Citation71 L.Ed. 347,272 U.S. 451,47 S.Ct. 127
PartiesHUDSON et al. v. UNITED STATES
Docket NumberNo. 307
Decision Date22 November 1926

272 U.S. 451
47 S.Ct. 127
71 L.Ed. 347
HUDSON et al.

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 307.
Argued and Submitted Oct. 21, 1926.
Decided Nov. 22, 1926.

Mr. B. B. McGinnis, of Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioners.

The Attorney General and Mr. Charles Bunn, of St. Paul, Minn., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners were indicted in the District Court of Western Pennsylvania for conspiracy to use and for using the mails to defraud, crimes punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both (sections 37, 215 Criminal Code (Comp. St. §§ 10201, 10385)). On pleas of nolo contendere they were sentenced to imprisonment for one year and one day. The conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 9 F. (2d) 825. The case is here on certiorari. 271 U. S. 652, 46 S. Ct. 474, 70 L. Ed. 1133; Judicial Code, § 240(a), as amended (Comp. St. § 1217).

The sole question raised by the assignment of error is whether a United States court, after accepting a plea of nolo contendere, may impose a prison sentence. It is the contention of petitioners that the plea in effect is conditioned upon the imposition of a lighter penalty; that

Page 452

therefore the court may not accept the plea to an indictment charging a crime punishable by imprisonment only, and if accepted, where the crime is punishable by imprisonment or fine or both, it may not accept the plea and ignore the condition by imposing a prison sentence. This contention is supported by Tucker v. United States (C. C. A. 7th) 196 F. 260, 116 C. C. A. 62, 41 L. R. A. (N. S.) 70, Shapiro v. United States (C. C. A. 7th) 196 F. 268, 116 C. C. A. 70, Blum v. United States (C. C. A. 7th) 196 F. 269, 116 C. C. A. 71, in which sentences of imprisonment on the plea of nolo contendere were set aside. But in United States v. Lair (C. C. A. 8th) 195 F. 47, 115 C. C. A. 49, habeas corpus was denied a prisoner confined for a two-year term upon this plea, but the objection pressed here apparently was neither raised nor considered. The state courts have rejected the contention when made.1

The use of the plea in the federal courts and the propriety of imposing a prison sentence upon it are recognized by the Probation Act. Act March 4, 1925, c. 521, 43 Stat. 1259 (Comp. St. §§ 10564 4/5-10564 4/5 c). Section 1 of that Act provides for the suspension of sentence and the release of the prisoner on probation 'after

Page 453

conviction or after a plea of guilty or nolo contendere for any crime or offense not punishable by death or life imprisonment.'

The plea of nolo contendere was known to the common law, and is referred to, although not by name, by a modern English text-writer. See Archbold's Pleading, Evidence, and Practice in Criminal Cases (26th Ed., 1922) 379. But no example of its use in the English courts has been found since the case of Queen v. Templeman (decided in 1702) 1 Salk. 55, where, although a fine was imposed, the question now under consideration was neither decided nor discussed.

The view of the court in the Tucker Case, that a prison sentence may not be imposed on the plea of nolo contendere, rests upon no more substantial basis than a possibly ambiguous phrase in a passage from Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown (8th Ed.) book 2, c. 31, p. 466. The author prefaces the chapter, 'Of Confessions and Demurrer,' with the remark:

'And now I am to consider what is to be done to a prisoner upon his confession, which may be either express or implied.'

In sections 1 and 2, he points out that a confession of guilt

'carries with it so strong a presumption of guilt that an entry on record, 'quod cognovit indictamentum,' etc., in an indictment of trespass, estops the defendant to plead 'not guilty' to an action brought afterwards against him for the same matter.'

He then says:

'Sec. 3. An implied confession is where a defendant, in a case not capital, doth not directly own himself guilty, but in a manner admits it by yielding to the king's mercy, and desiring to submit to a small fine: in which case, if the court think fit to accept of such submission, and make an entry that the defendant posuit se in gratiam regis, without putting him to a direct confession, or plea (which in such cases seems to be left to discretion), the defendant shall not be estopped to plead not guilty to an action for the same fact, as he shall be where the entry is quod cognovit indictamentum.'

Page 454

This passage appears in all the earlier editions of Hawkins. It has been handed down from generation to generation of text-writers in substantially the same form, with occasional glosses, but researches rarely went further.2 Similarly judicial study of the history of the plea halts with Hawkins.

The author, neither here nor elsewhere, fulfills his promise 'to consider what is to be done to a prisoner upon his confession.' It is to be noted that this and the preceding sections are directed only to the effect of the confession, whether express or implied, as an estoppel. He does not undertake to state with any certainty the precise effect of the implied confession upon the sentence. Putting oneself on the mercy of the king seems to have been at least...

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159 practice notes
  • Bank One of Cleveland, N.A. v. Abbe, No. 89-3559
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 17 October 1990
    ...and state prosecution. A nolo plea should be treated as " 'an admission of guilt for the purposes of the case.' " Hudson v. United States, 272 U.S. 451, 455, 47 S.Ct. 127, 129, 71 L.Ed. 347 (1926), as quoted in United States v. Heller, 579 F.2d 990, 998 (6th Cir.1978). Although a defendant ......
  • Coleman v. Burnett, No. 71-1114.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 14 March 1973
    ...North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37-38, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970). 33 Id. at 37, 91 S.Ct. 160. 34 Hudson v. United States, 272 U.S. 451, 453, 47 S.Ct. 127, 71 L.Ed. 347 35 Supra note 32. 36 400 U.S. at 37, 91 S.Ct. at 167. 37 Id. See also United Brotherhood of Carpenters & J......
  • William N. v. Kimberly H.,
    • United States
    • New York Family Court
    • 31 May 2013
    ...as a consent by the defendant that he may be punished as if he were guilty” ( id. at 36 and n. 8, 91 S.Ct. 160;3see also Hudson v. U.S., 272 U.S. 451, 456–57, 47 S.Ct. 127, 71 L.Ed. 347 [1926] ) (holding that a plea of nolo contendere is like a plea of guilty for purposes of the case in whi......
  • Dow v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 6 April 1971
    ...be validated by waiver or consent. People v. Collins, 1962, 35 Ill.App.2d 228, 182 N.E.2d 387. See also, Hudson v. United States, 1926, 47 S.Ct. 127, 272 U.S. 451, 71 L.Ed. 347; Crolich v. United States, 1952, 5th Cir., 196 F.2d 879, cert. den. 344 U.S. 830, 73 S.Ct. 36, 97 L.Ed. If no crim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
159 cases
  • Bank One of Cleveland, N.A. v. Abbe, No. 89-3559
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 17 October 1990
    ...and state prosecution. A nolo plea should be treated as " 'an admission of guilt for the purposes of the case.' " Hudson v. United States, 272 U.S. 451, 455, 47 S.Ct. 127, 129, 71 L.Ed. 347 (1926), as quoted in United States v. Heller, 579 F.2d 990, 998 (6th Cir.1978). Although a defendant ......
  • Coleman v. Burnett, No. 71-1114.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 14 March 1973
    ...North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37-38, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970). 33 Id. at 37, 91 S.Ct. 160. 34 Hudson v. United States, 272 U.S. 451, 453, 47 S.Ct. 127, 71 L.Ed. 347 35 Supra note 32. 36 400 U.S. at 37, 91 S.Ct. at 167. 37 Id. See also United Brotherhood of Carpenters & J......
  • William N. v. Kimberly H.,
    • United States
    • New York Family Court
    • 31 May 2013
    ...as a consent by the defendant that he may be punished as if he were guilty” ( id. at 36 and n. 8, 91 S.Ct. 160;3see also Hudson v. U.S., 272 U.S. 451, 456–57, 47 S.Ct. 127, 71 L.Ed. 347 [1926] ) (holding that a plea of nolo contendere is like a plea of guilty for purposes of the case in whi......
  • Dow v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 6 April 1971
    ...be validated by waiver or consent. People v. Collins, 1962, 35 Ill.App.2d 228, 182 N.E.2d 387. See also, Hudson v. United States, 1926, 47 S.Ct. 127, 272 U.S. 451, 71 L.Ed. 347; Crolich v. United States, 1952, 5th Cir., 196 F.2d 879, cert. den. 344 U.S. 830, 73 S.Ct. 36, 97 L.Ed. If no crim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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