FREEMAN v. U S(1910)
[217 U.S. 539, 540] Messrs. Aldis B. Browne, Alexander Britton, W. A. Kincaid, and Evans Browne for plaintiff in error.
Assistant Attorney General Fowler for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:
This is a writ of error to the supreme court of the Philippine Islands, seeking to reverse a judgment of that court affirming a conviction of the plaintiff in error of the crime of estafa (embezzlement), growing out of the alleged misappropriation of some 3,500 pesos received by him as manager of the steamship department of Castle Brothers, Wolf & Sons. The sentence of the court of first instance was as follows:
Upon appeal to the supreme court of the Philippine Islands, that court, after reviewing the testimony, said:
The statute of the Philippine Islands defining the crime is article 535 of the Philippine Code:
... * *
Other pertinent articles of the Philippine Code are as follows:
... * *
... * *
... * *
... * *
It is the contention of the plaintiff in error that the judgment of the supreme court of the Philippine Islands should be reversed for two reasons: first, because the judgment was, in substance and effect, an imprisonment for debt; second, because the court should have dismissed the case without prejudice to the right to institute a civil action for the rendition of accounts.
As to the first contention, that the judgment and sentence amounted to imprisonment for debt: The act of July 1, 1902, providing for the administration of the affairs of the civil government of the Philippine Islands (32 Stat. at L. 691, chap. 1369), provides, among other things, in 5 thereof, 'that no person shall be imprisoned for debt.' This provision was carried to the Philippine Islands in the [217 U.S. 539, 544] statute quoted with a well-known meaning, as understood when thus adopted into the Bill of Rights for the government of the Philippines, and must be so interpreted and enforced. Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100, 124 , 49 S. L. ed. 114, 122, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 797, 1 A. & E. Ann. Cas. 655.
Statutes relieving from imprisonment for debt were not intended to take away the right to enforce criminal statutes and punish wrongful embezzlements or conversions of money. It was not the purpose of this class of legislation to interfere with the enforcement of such penal statutes, although it provides for the payment of money as a penalty for the commission of an offense. Such laws are rather intended to prevent the commitment of debtors to prison for liabilities arising upon their contracts. McCool v. State, 23 Ind. 129; Musser v. Stewart, 21 Ohio St. 353; Ex parte Cottrell, 13 Neb. 193, 13 N. W. 174; Re Ebenhack, 17 Kan. 618, 622.
This general principle does not seem to be controverted by the learned counsel for the plaintiff in error, and the argument is, that inasmuch as the money adjudged is to go to the creditor, and not into the public treasury, imprisonment for the nonpayment of such sum is an imprisonment for debt. But we think that an examination of the statutes of the Philippines and the judgment of the supreme court shows that the imposition of the money penalty was by way of punishment for the offense committed, and not a requirement to satisfy a debt contractual in its nature, or be imprisoned in default of payment.
Section 5, article 535, of the Penal Code, provides that those who, to the prejudice of another, shall appropriate or misapply any money, goods, or any kind of personal property which they may have received as a deposit on commission for administration, or in any other character producing the obligation to deliver or return the same, or who shall deny having received it, shall incur certain [217 U.S. 539, 545] penalties. As a further means of punishing the act done in violation of the statute, he may, under the Philippine Code, be made to suffer a subsidiary imprisonment for a term not to exceed one third of the principal penalty in the lieu of the restoration of the sum found to be embezzled. The sentence of the supreme court of the Philippine Islands, including the imprisonment in lieu of the payment of the sum found due, was because of the conviction for the violation of this statute; in other words, the money payment was part of the punishment, and was not imposed as an imprisonment for nonpayment of the debt, regardless of the criminal offense committed. The sentence and each part of it was imposed because of the conviction of the defendant of the criminal offense charged.
This situation is not changed because the sentence provides for a release from the subsidiary imprisonment upon payment of the money wrongfully converted. The sentence imposed, nevertheless, includes the requirement to pay money because of the conviction of the offense. The requirement that there shall be no imprisonment for debt was intended to prevent the resort to that remedy for the collection of contract debts, and not to prevent the state from imposing a sentence for crime which should require the restoration of the sum of money wrongfully converted in violation of a criminal statute. The nonpayment of the money is a condition upon which the punishment is imposed. State v. Nicholson, 67 Md. 1, 8 Atl. 817.
We do not think that the sentence and judgment violated the statute providing that no person shall be imprisoned for debt.
As to the second objection, that the court should have dismissed the cause without prejudice to the right of instituting a civil action, the argument seems to be that this should be so because the payment of the money adjudged, or suffering the 'subsidiary imprisonment' im- [217 U.S. 539, 546] posed, would not, as the supreme court adjudged, bar the creditor from a civil action to recover any sum which he might prove to be due in excess of the judgment rendered in the present case. 'In other words,' says the learned counsel, 'imprisonment will satisfy (and therefore discharge) the judgment here rendered, leaving another and wholly civil action open to the complainants, to recover any additional sum arising out of the same cause of action.' This possibility is said to be so wholly unjust that it ought not to be permitted to exist in any country subject to American jurisdiction. But we fail to appreciate the weight of this argument. We see no reason why the court may not, for the purpose of the criminal proceedings, find the amount wrongfully converted by the defendant for the purpose of fixing the sentence in this case, leaving the firm defrauded to recover in a civil action any sum or sums in excess of that amount which may be found due and remain unpaid to them. We are unable to perceive in this action such violation of the fundamental principles of justice as required the dismissal of the criminal action, leaving the parties complaining to the remedies of a civil suit.
We find no error in the judgment of the court below, and the same is affirmed.