Lees v. United States,
Annotate this Case
150 U.S. 476 (1893)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Lees v. United States, 150 U.S. 476 (1893)
Lees v. United States
Argued November 22, 1893
Decided December 4, 1893
150 U.S. 476
A district court of the United States has jurisdiction over an action to recover a penalty imposed for a violation of the Act of February 26, 1885, 23 Stat. 332, c. 164,
"to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia."
The act of February 26, 1885, 23 Stat. 332, c. 164, prohibiting the importation of aliens under contract to perform labor in the United States is constitutional.
An action to recover a penalty under that act, though in form a civil action, is unquestionably criminal in its nature, and the defendant cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself.
It is well settled that instead of preparing separate bills for each separate matter, all the alleged errors of a trial may be joined in one bill of exceptions, and the exception in this case is specific and direct to the one error of compelling the defendant to become a witness against himself, and comes within this rule.
This was a civil action in form, to recover a penalty for importing an alien under contract to perform labor in violation of the Act of February 26, 1885, 23 Stat. 332, c. 164. The point upon which the case turns in the opinion is that, the action being criminal in nature, though civil in form, the defendant could not be compelled to be a witness against himself.