People v. Arnold

Decision Date23 June 1881
Citation9 N.W. 406,46 Mich. 268
CourtMichigan Supreme Court
PartiesPEOPLE v. ARNOLD.

An information alleged that defendant and other persons, at a time and place named, "unlawfully, deceitfully, and fraudulently did combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together, by divers false pretences, subtle means, and devices, to obtain and acquire to themselves the sum of to-wit, $1,900, of the value of $1,900, with intent to cheat and defraud;" and further, that the conspirators "in pursuance of and according to said combination conspiracy, and agreement between them, as aforesaid, did to-wit, on the sixteenth day of March, 1880, at Sturgis in said county of St. Joseph, by diverse false pretences, subtle means, and devices, unlawfully, falsely, deceitfully, and fraudulently obtain and acquire to themselves, of and from the First National Bank, a corporation created and existing under the laws of the United States, having its principal place of business at Sturgis, in said county, and of the moneys, goods, and chattels of said bank, $50 in greenbacks and national bank notes, of the value of $50, with intent to cheat and defraud." Held, that such information, as one for conspiracy, was insufficient, and was not aided by the allegation of an oral act in pursuance of such conspiracy. Information for conspiracy in this case, showing a felony to have been committed in pursuance thereof, did not operate to merge the common-law misdemeanor.

COOLEY, J.

The information on which the defendant has been convicted alleged that he and other persons, at a time and place named "unlawfully, deceitfully and fraudulenly did combine, conspire, confederate and agree together, by divers false pretences, subtle means and devices to obtain and acquire to themselves the sum of, to-wit, $1,900, of the value of $1,900, with intent to cheat and defraud." This is all the description we have of the conspiracy; but it is further averred that the conspirators "in pursuance of and according to said combination, conspiracy and agreement, between them as aforesaid, did, to-wit, on the sixteenth day of March, 1880, at Sturgis in said county of St. Joseph, by diverse false pretences, subtle means and devices, unlawfully, falsely, deceitfully and fraudulently obtain and acquire to themselves of and from the First National Bank, a corporation created and existing under the laws of the United States, having its principal place of business at Sturgis in said county, and of the moneys, goods and chattels of said bank, $50 in greenbacks and national bank notes of the value of $50 with intent to cheat and defraud.

It was objected on motion to quash that the information set forth no offence; but the court overruled the motion, and the case went to the jury on the facts. On exceptions the sufficiency of the information is now before us. It will be observed that the information only avers in general terms a conspiracy by divers false pretences, subtle means and devices to cheat and defraud, and that it does not set out and describe the pretences and devices, or more particularly indicate the means whereby the cheat was to be accomplished. Neither does it specify the person or persons who were the objects of the conspiracy, and who were to be cheated and defrauded in the prosecution thereof. It is conceded that if the act which the conspirators combine to perform is unlawful, it is not necessary to set out in the information the means intended to be employed in accomplishing it. Rex v. Gill, 2 B. & Ald. 304; Regina v. King, 7 Q.B. 782; Sydserf v. Regina, 11 Q.B. 245; Commonwealth v. Ward, 1 Mass. 473; Commonwealth v. Warren, 6 Mass. 72; State v. Buchanan, 5 Har. & J. 317; Commonwealth v. McKisson, 8 S. & R. 470; Wortchell v. Commonwealth, 9 Pa.St. 211; Hazen v. Commonwealth, 23 Pa.St. 255; State v. Bartlett, 30 Me. 132; State v. Parker, 43 N.H. 83; State v. Jones, 13 Iowa, 269; State v. De Witt, 2 Hill, (S.C.) 282; People v. Richards, 1 Mich. 216; People v. Clap, 10 Mich. 310. But if the end in view is lawful or indifferent, and the conspiracy only becomes criminal by reason of the unlawful means whereby it is to be accomplished, it becomes necessary to show the criminality by setting out the unlawful means. Commonwealth v. Eastman, 1 Cush. 180; State v. Noyes, 25 Vt. 415; Alderman v. People, 4 Mich. 414; People v. Clark, 10 Mich. 310.

To cheat and defraud by false pretences a person named is an indictable offence by statute. In an information for this offence it would be necessary to specify the pretences used; but in an information for conspiracy to cheat and defraud by false pretences the like particularity is not essential. It is enough to allege in general terms the combination and agreement to commit the crime. State v. Crowley, 41 Wis. 271. And the offences of conspiracy may be complete even though the pretences for accomplishing it may not be agreed upon. People v. Clark, 10 Mich. 310. It may also be complete although no particular persons were in view as subjects of the fraud, if a definite purpose to defraud appears. The conspiracy for which conviction was had in Rex v. Berenger, 3 M. & S. 67, was alleged to be a conspiracy to defraud such subjects of the king as should make purchases in the public funds when the price should be artificially advanced by false statements and unfounded rumors. See also Regina v. Peck, 9 A. & E. 686.

In Commonwealth v. Clary, 4 Pa.St. 210, the indictment which was held good charged a conspiracy by the circulation of false and forged bills to cheat and defraud "the citizens of this commonwealth and others." In Commonwealth v. Judd, 2 Mass. 329, the conspiracy was to manufacture base and spurious indigo and sell the same at public auction, with intent to cheat and defraud such persons as should become purchasers. It is necessary to permit this general form of pleading, or some of the worst and most mischievous conspiracies would escape punishment altogether, from the obvious impossibility of making the indictment specific when the purpose to defraud was general. Now it is highly probable that in this case Arnold and his associates did not in their combination fix definitely upon any persons who should be the victims of their criminal artifices. They planned frauds and agreed in a general way upon the means whereby they were to be accomplished, but circumstances must determine who should be defrauded. It would have been allowable, therefore, to charge that they conspired, by divers false pretences and tokens to cheat and defraud, making use for that purpose of terms as general as those employed in the cases above referred to. A better method no doubt would have been, when the fraud had been actually accomplished, to allege a conspiracy to cheat and defraud the bank which was actually defrauded, for the overt act had then made specific and certain what before was general and uncertain.

But in this case the allegation is that the associates conspired to obtain and acquire to themselves a certain sum of money with intent to cheat and defraud. It is not alleged that the purpose was to cheat and defraud any one person or class of persons, or the public generally. As stated, the conspirators had in mind a purpose to cheat; but this was an incomplete purpose, unless it contemplated being carried out by the selection of persons as victims. They also had in mind to acquire to themselves a certain sum of money; but it is not alleged that this money belonged to any other person or persons, or that they conspired by their false pretences and devices to deprive any other person or persons of his or their money or other property. It would be perfectly conceivable--if the information contained no further allegation respecting it--that the money they proposed to acquire to themselves was their own money which some one else was wrongfully withholding from them, and which by deception they proposed to reclaim. Nothing can be intended in favor of an uncertain or ambiguous criminal charge.

But in this case an overt act is alleged to have been done in pursuance of the conspiracy; and this overt act was the obtaining by false pretences of the sum of $50 of the First National Bank of Sturgis, of the goods and chattels of that bank. Had the information alleged that the conspiracy contemplated this particular fraud it would have been sufficient; but the question now is whether the allegation that this...

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  • Jelke v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • March 2, 1918
    ... ... evidence. Two of the important sections of this state law ... read as follows: ... 'Section ... 1. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, ... represented in the General Assembly, that for the purpose ... of this act, every article, substitute or compound, ... Ruling Case Law, p. 1080 ... Mr ... Justice Cooley, speaking for the Michigan Supreme Court, in ... the case of People v. Arnold, 46 Mich. 268, 9 N.W ... 406, announced the rule in the following language, citing ... many cases: ... 'It ... is conceded that if the ... ...
  • Breese v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • February 7, 1913
    ...803, 889; Lorenz v. U.S., 24 App.D.C. 337, 387; Com. v. Wishart, 8 Leg.Gaz. (Pa.) 137; People v. Willis, 52 N.Y.Supp. 808; People v. Arnold, 46 Mich. 268, 9 N.W. 406; Amer. Ins. Co. v. State, 75 Miss. 24, 35, 22 So. 102; Ochs v. People, 25 Ill.App. 379, 414; 6 Am. & Eng. Ency. (2d Ed.) 844;......
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    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • December 18, 1911
    ...these may be added: State v. Nugent, 77 N. J. L. 84, 86, 71 Atl. 485; Bloomer v. State, 48 Md. 521, 3 Am. Crim. Rep. 37; People v. Arnold, 46 Mich. 275, 9 N. W. 406; Fire Ins. Cos. v. State, 75 Miss. 24, 22 So. 99; State v. Hamilton, 13 Nev. 386; International Harvester Co. v. Com. 137 Ky. ......
  • State v. Mcelroy
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    • March 28, 1946
    ...were under the common law. Among such cases are the following: People v. Mather, 4 Wend., N.Y., 229, 21 Am.Dec. 122; People v. Arnold, 46 Mich. 268, 9 N.W. 406; Commonwealth v. Gillespie, 7 Serg. & R., Pa., 469, 10 Am.Dec. 475; Commonwealth v. Bartilson, 85 Pa. 482; Commonwealth v. Saul, 26......
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