People v. Clement

Decision Date26 October 1888
Citation40 N.W. 190,72 Mich. 116
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Error to circuit court, Oakland county; J. B. MOORE, Judge.

The defendant, James M. Clement, was convicted of the crime of seduction. From the judgment he brings error.


The statute provides that no prosecution for seduction shall be commenced after one year from the time of committing the offense. In this case complaint was made before a justice within the year, but it was not clearly proved that a warrant had been issued and delivered to the officer to be served within the time. The main question presented by the record is whether making a complaint before a justice is a commencement of prosecution so as to prevent the statute from running. I think it is not. The complaint is not required to be reduced to writing or signed by the party, or filed with the justice. The justice may reduce it to writing if he sees fit, and ordinarily this is the best practice. I think it would be a dangerous doctrine to hold that an oral complaint, on oath may be made before a justice, charging a person with crime and then the justice may delay further proceedings until the statute of limitations expires, and then the justice may proceed to issue his warrant for the apprehension of the offender. If this may be done when the limitation is one year, it may be where the limitation is six years. It is plain that such construction of the statute would open the door to grave abuses. The justice might delay until after witnesses to establish the innocence of the accused have died, or removed from the vicinity, or until the facts and circumstances have been forgotten, and the proof made difficult or impossible. I think that, in order to commence a prosecution, there must not only be a complaint on oath, but a warrant must be issued by the justice, and placed in the hands of an officer for service. This is the construction placed on the statute of limitations in civil actions, and I perceive no good reason why it should not apply to criminal prosecutions.

I do not think that section 9507, How. St., applies to prosecutions for seduction. That applies by its terms to prosecutions which are to be commenced within six years. The statute says: "But any period during which the party charged was not usually and publicly a resident within this state shall not be reckoned as part of the six years." Our statutes provide for the prosecution of offenders who are fugitives from justice, and there is no difficulty in commencing a prosecution for seduction within the year when the offender flees from justice. In this case there was some question whether a warrant had been issued and delivered to an officer to be served within a year from the time the offense was charged to have been committed. This question should have been submitted to the jury as requested by the counsel for respondent. The judgment should be reversed, and a new trial granted.

CAMPBELL, MORSE, and LONG, JJ., concurred.

SHERWOOD C.J., (dissenting.)

The crime in this case charged against respondent is seduction committed with Lucy M. Gregory, in the township of Springfield, at her father's house, in Oakland county, on or about the 29th of November, 1885. The respondent was tried, and convicted of the offense charged, at the last May term in the Oakland circuit; and was sentenced by Judge MOORE to imprisonment at Jackson for the term of two years. The proceedings in the case are now before us for review. Fifteen errors are assigned upon the record. Twelve relate to the proceedings previous to the charge being given, and the remaining three are to the refusals to charge. The first and last assignments of error are to exceptions taken to remarks made by the prosecuting attorney in opening and closing the case to the jury. In view of the peculiar circumstances surrounding this case, I do not think what was excepted to in these assignments furnish any sufficient ground for reversing this judgment, and I am not prepared to say that they were even subject to exception. The errors assigned upon the rulings made in taking the testimony cannot any of them be sustained, and it is not essential that they be further herein considered. The three requests to charge which the court refused, as asked by defendant's counsel, read as follows: "(1) If the jury find that there was no warrant issued and delivered to an officer for service within one year after the alleged offense, the defendant must be acquitted. (2) The...

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