HODGSON v. STATE OF VERMONT(1897)
It is stated in the record that the state's attorney 'likewise filed specifications in words and figures following':
[Here follow the names of 66 persons, whose residence is not given.]
This specification is not required by any statute, and forms no part of the information. It is, however, provided by statute that: 'When a specification is required, it shall be sufficient to specify the offenses with such certainty as to time and person as the prosecutor may be able, and the same shall be subject to amendment at any stage of the trial; and where the specification sets forth the sale, furnishing or giving away to any person or persons unknown, the witnesses produced may be enquired of as to such transactions with any person, [168 U.S. 262, 265] whether named in the specification or not, and as the name of such person may be disclosed by the evidence it may be inserted in or added to the specification upon such terms as to a postponement of the trial for this cause, as the court shall think reasonable.' St. Vt. 1886, No. 37.
It does not appear from the record that the specification was asked for by the respondent, nor whether the offenses of which he was convicted were for selling, furnishing, or giving away, or whether to either of the 66 persons named in the specification, or to some person or persons not named. These proceedings were based upon sections 3802, 3803, 3859, 3860 of the Revised Laws of Vermont (Revision of 1880) as amended by No. 42 of the Acts of 1888, which are as follows:
Before trial the plaintiff in error filed a motion to quash the indictment. This motion was overruled by the court, to which decision the plaintiff in error duly excepted. The case was carried by the plaintiff in error to the supreme court of Vermont upon exceptions to the overruling by the county court of his motion to quash, and upon other exceptions taken at the trial, and not material here, as they raise no federal question. Judgment and sentence were stayed in the county court, to await the result of the hearing in the supreme court.
In that court the plaintiff in error filed a motion in arrest of judgment, which he was allowed by the court to do, and the same was taken into consideration and passed upon by the court.
The grounds set forth are, in substance: That the information upon which the conviction was had is insufficient and void, and lacking in substance in various particulars specified in the motion; that the respondent was deprived of his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; that he was convicted of two infamous crimes without due process of law, and denied by the state the equal protection of the law; that the statutes of Vermont under which the proceedings were had are in conflict with the provisions of the constitution of the United States, and especially that provision of the fourteenth amendment which provides that 'no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or prop- [168 U.S. 262, 267] erty without due process of law; nor deny to any person the equal protection of the law.'
The supreme court of Vermont affirmed the judgment of the county court (28 Atl. 1089) refusing to quash the information, and overruled the motion in arrest, and proceeded to render judgment upon the verdict, and sentenced the plaintiff in error to pay a fine of $30 for the first offense and $70 for the second offense, with costs taxed at $197.36, and to be confined at hard labor in the house of correction at Rutland for the period of 60 days, 'with alternative sentence.' The alternative sentence is that, in case of failure to pay the fine and costs within twenty-four hours, the respondent be confined in the house of correction for the term of three days for each dollar, in addition to the period for which he is sentenced. R. L. 4336
The court decided, in substance, that the information was sufficient; that it constituted due process of law; that the statute did not infringe the requirements of the constitution of the United States by depriving the accused of the equal protection of the laws, or by subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment.
The defendant thereupon sued out a writ of error to this court, which was allowed by the chief judge of the supreme court of the state of Vermont.
E. J. Phelps and Wm. H. Bliss, for plaintiff in error.
Frank L. Fish and C. A. Prouty for the State of Vermont.
Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
At a former term of this court, in the case of O'Neil v. Vermont, 144 U.S. 323 , 12 Sup. Ct. 693, we were asked to hold certain provisions of the laws of the state of Vermont concerning the importation and sale of intoxicating liquors void, because they [168 U.S. 262, 268] conflicted with the constitution of the United States wherein it confers upon congress exclusive power to regulate interstate commerce and forbids cruel and unusual punishments. But the court was of opinion that the record in that case did not disclose that any federal question had been raised or decided in the supreme court of Vermont, and the writ of error was accordingly dismissed.
In the present case the assignments of error raised no question as to the character of the punishment inflicted upon the accused. Nor do the facts of the present case call upon us to consider the validity of those portions of the Vermont statutes which concern intoxicating liquors as articles of interstate commerce.
But certain federal questions are sufficiently presented in this record, which have been argued with great ability, and which it is our duty to now consider.
The first contention is that the information under which the plaintiff in error was tried and convicted was defective in such essential particulars as to deprive him of his liberty and property without 'due process of law.' It is said that the information does not charge any specific offense; that it does not state with any reasonable certainty the time when the offenses charged, or any or either of them, occurred; that the name of no person to whom liquor was alleged to have been sold, furnished, or given away is stated; that neither the place where the sales are claimed to have taken place, the kind or quantity of intoxicating liquor so disposed of, nor any other circumstance that would tend to identify the transactions referred to, is stated; that such an information does not protest that accused in the least against being prosecuted for one crime and convicted of another; that under this information it is and must remain utterly uncertain what particular one of many offenses the accused was convicted of; that the record of an acquittal or conviction upon such an information forms no bar to a second prosecution for the same offense.
While we are not relieved from considering these obligations by the mere fact that the offenses charged arose under a statute, and were proceeded in in a court of a state, it is [168 U.S. 262, 269] yet obvious that our concern in them can go no further than to inquire whether the plaintiff in error was deprived of the rights and immunities secured to him by the federal constitution.
Several of the objections specified merely raise questions of form, and, as such, were conclusively ruled by the state court. But it is insisted that in all criminal prosecutions the accused must be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; that in no case can there be, in criminal proceedings, due process of law, where the accused is not thus informed, and that the information which he is to receive is that which will acquaint him with the essential particulars of the offense, so that he may appear in court prepared to meet every feature of the accusation against him.
Conceding that this is a correst statement of the rights of an accused person, and that, if deprived of such rights, he may properly invoke the protection of the constitution of the United States, our reading of this record has not satisfied us that the plaintiff in error has any just grounds of complaint. We adopt, in this regard, the views and language of the supreme court of the state:
It is argued that the defects or insufficiencies of the information cannot be supplied by the specification, because, the latter is not required by any statute, and is not a matter of right. If this assumption was well founded, it would strengthen the criticism urged against the information. But that such assumption is not well founded is shown by the opinion of the supreme court of Vermont above quoted, wherein it is held that the accused, under these proceedings, is entitled to a specification as a mater of right.
The defendant being entitled to a specification as a matter of right, under the decision of the supreme court of the state, the question of the validity of the information in the absence of any specification is not presented by this case, and we therefore express no opinion upon it.
It is further claimed that the conviction of the plaintiff, and his sentence to infamous punishment, was without due process of law, because he was not indicted by a grand jury. Discussion of this contention is unnecessary, because it was the very matter considered in Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516 , 4 Sup. Ct. 11, 292, where it was ruled that the words 'due process of law,' in the fourteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States, do not necessarily require an indictment by a grand jury in a prosecution by a state for murder. The views expressed in that case have been approved and followed in a number of subsequent cases, of which a few may be cited: Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27 , 5 Sup. Ct. 357; In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436 , 10 Sup. Ct. 930; Ex parte Converse, 137 U.S. 624 , 11 Sup. Ct. 191; Hallinger v. Davis, 146 U.S. 314 , 13 Sup. Ct. 105.
We concede the proposition, so earnestly urged on behalf of the plaintiff in error, that by the fourteenth amendment it is made the right and the consequent duty of this court, when a case has been duly brought before it, to inquire whether, in the enactment and administration of the criminal laws of a state, it is sought to arbitrarily deprive any person of his life, liberty, of property, or to refuse him the equal [168 U.S. 262, 273] protection of the laws, and that such inquiry is not precluded or ended by the mere fact that the judgment complained of was reached by proceedings in a state court in pursuance of the provisions of a state statute. But we are contented to close this discussion by quoting the language of this court in Ex parte Converse: 'We repeat, as so often has been said before, that the fourteenth amendment undoubtedly forbids any arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or property, and in the administration of criminal justice requires that no different or higher punishment shall be imposed on one than is imposed on all for like offenses; but it was not designed to interfere with the power of the state to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens, nor with the exercise of that power in the adjudications of the courts of a state in administering the process provided by the law of the state.'
Finding no error therein, the judgment of the supreme court of Vermont is affirmed.