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United States Supreme Court

105 U.S. 611

United States  v.  Carll

In an indictment upon a statute, it is not sufficient to set forth the offence in the words of the statute, unless those words of themselves fully, directly, and expressly, without any uncertainty or ambiguity, set forth all the elements necessary to constitute the offence intended to be punished; and the fact that the statute in question, read in the light of the common law, and of other statutes on the like matter, enables the court to infer the intent of the legislature, does not dispense with the necessity of alleging in the indictment all the facts necessary to bring the case within that intent. United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542; United States v. Simmons, 96 id. 360; Commonwealth v. Clifford, 8 Cush. (Mass.) 215; Commonwealth v. Bean, 11 id. 414; Commonwealth v. Bean, 14 Gray (Mass.), 52; Commonwealth v. Filburn,119 Mass. 297.

The language of the statute on which this indictment is founded includes the case of every person who, with intent to defraud, utters any forged obligation of the United States. But the offence at which it is aimed is similar to the common-law offence of uttering a forged or counterfeit bill. In this case, as in that, knowledge that the instrument is forged and counterfeited is essential to make out the crime; and an uttering, with intent to defraud, of an instrument in fact counterfeit, but supposed by the defendant to be genuine, though within the words of the statute, would not be within its meaning and object.

This indictment, by omitting the allegation contained in the indictment in United States v. Howell (11 Wall. 432), and in all approved precedents, that the defendant knew the instrument which he uttered to be false, forged, and counterfeit, fails to charge him with any crime. The omission is of matter of substance, and not a 'defect or imperfection in matter of form only,' within the meaning of sect. 1025 of the Revised Statutes. By the settled rules of criminal pleading, and the authorities above cited, therefore, the question of the sufficiency of the indictment must be Answered in the negative.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).