United States v. Simms
5 U.S. 252 (1803)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Simms, 5 U.S. 1 Cranch 252 252 (1803)

United States v. Simms

5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 252

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT

FOR THE COUNTY OF ALEXANDER

Syllabus

The Acts of Congress of 27 February, 1801, and of 3 March, 1801, relative to the District of Columbia have not changed the laws of Maryland and Virginia, adopted by Congress as the laws of the District in such parts of the same respectively as formerly belonged severally to those states any further than was made necessary by the change of jurisdiction. Suits for fines, forfeitures, and penalties imposed by the laws of Maryland or Virginia must be prosecuted and proceeded in according to the forms and provisions of those laws, but in the name of the United States where the prosecution was required to be conducted in the name of the state.

Where, by a law of Virginia, a penalty was imposed for keeping a gaming table, and the same was given to any person who should sue for the same, an indictment in the name of the United States for the offense cannot be sustained, but the penalty must be sued for in the form authorized by the law.

Page 5 U. S. 253

The defendant was indicted for suffering a faro bank to be played in his house, contrary to an Act of the Assembly of Virginia of 19 January, 1798, ch. 2, sec. 3.

The act provides that

"Any person whatsoever who shall suffer the game of billiards, or any of the games played at the tables called the A. B. C. -- E. O. or faro bank, or any other gaming table or bank of the same or the like kind, under any denomination whatever, to be played in his or her house or in a house of which he or she hath at the time the use or possession shall, for every such offense, forfeit and pay the sum of $150, to be recovered in any court of record by any person who will sue for the same."

Upon the trial of the indictment, the court charged the jury that the proceeding by indictment to recover the penalty imposed by law for the offense stated in the indictment was improper, illegal, and could not be sustained.

To this opinion an exception was taken by the attorney of the United States, and the question before the court was whether an indictment was the proper process.

Page 5 U. S. 256

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a writ of error to a judgment of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, sitting in the County of Alexandria, in the following case.

By an act of the Legislature of Virginia, a penalty of

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