United States v. Stevenson, 215 U.S. 190 (1909)
U.S. Supreme CourtUnited States v. Stevenson, 215 U.S. 190 (1909)
United States v. Stevenson
Argued October 14, 15, 1909
Decided November 29, 1909
215 U.S. 190
On writ of error taken by the United States under the Criminal Appeals Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, where the indictment was dismissed as not sustained by the statute and also as bad on principles of general law, this Court can only review the decision so far as it is based on the invalidity or construction of the statute; it cannot consider questions of general law. United States v. Keitel, 211 U. S. 370.
In determining whether a special remedy created by a statute for enforcing a prescribed penalty excludes all other remedies, the intention of Congress may be found in the history of the legislation, and, in the absence of clear and specific language, Congress will not be presumed to have excluded the government from a well recognized method of enforcing its statutes.
The fact that a penal statute provides for enforcing the prescribed penalty of fine and forfeiture by civil suit does not necessarily exclude enforcing by indictment, and so held in regard to penalty for assisting the immigration of contract laborers prescribed by §§ 4 and 5 of the Immigration Act of February 20, 1907, c. 1134, 34 Stat. 898.
Although the term misdemeanor has at times been used in the statutes
of the United States without strict regard to its common law meaning, a misdemeanor at all times has been a crime, and a change in a statute by which that which before was merely unlawful is made a misdemeanor will not be presumed to be meaningless.
When the government prosecutes by indictment for a penalty that it might sue for in a civil action, the person proceeded against is entitled to all constitutional protection as to production of witnesses against him, and a verdict cannot be directed against him, as might be the case in a civil action.
The facts are stated in the opinion.