A "motion to quash" an indictment, based upon a former
adjudication that a previous indictment for the same offence was
barred by the statute of limitations, held,
a plea in bar. United States v. Barber, 219 U. S.
, 219 U. S.
Under the Criminal Appeals Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34
Stat. 1246, the right to review decisions and judgments sustaining
special pleas in bar is not limited to cases in which the decisions
or judgments are based upon the invalidity or construction of the
statutes upon which the indictments are founded. United States
v. Keitel, 211 U. S. 370
United States v. Kissel, 218 U. S. 601
explained and distinguished.
A plea of the statute of limitations is a plea to the
A judgment for defendant that the prosecution is barred by
limitations goes to his liability in substantive law, and, in
whatever form the issue was raised, such a judgment may be
interposed as a conclusive bar to another prosecution for the same
The Fifth Amendment, in providing that no one should be twice
put in jeopardy, was not intended to supplant the fundamental
principle of res judicata
in criminal cases.
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court.
The defendant in error and others were indicted for a conspiracy
to conceal assets from a trustee in bankruptcy.
Page 242 U. S. 86
Act of July 1, 1898, c. 541, § 29, 30 Stat. 544, 554. The
defendant Oppenheimer set up a previous adjudication upon a former
indictment for the same offense that it was barred by the one-year
statute of limitations in the Bankruptcy Act for offenses against
that act, § 29d -- an adjudication since held to be wrong in
another case. United States v. Rabinowich, 238 U. S.
. This defense was presented in four forms entitled,
respectively, demurrer, motion to quash, plea in abatement, and
plea in bar. After motion by the government that the defendant be
required to elect which of the four he would stand upon, he
withdrew the last-mentioned two, and subsequently the court granted
what was styled the motion to quash, ordered the indictment
quashed, and discharged the defendant without day. The government
brings this writ of error, treating the so-called motion to quash
as a plea in bar, which in substance it was. United States v.
Barber, 219 U. S. 72
219 U. S.
The defendant objects that the statute giving a writ of error to
the United States from the decision or judgment sustaining a
special plea in bar, when the defendant has not been put in
jeopardy, Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, is limited
like the earlier clauses to judgments based on the invalidity or
construction of the statute upon which the indictment is founded.
But that limitation, expressly in each of the two preceding
paragraphs of the statute, is not repeated here. The language used
in United States v. Keitel, 211 U.
, 211 U. S. 399
reference only to the construction of the indictment and to its
sufficiency upon matters not involving a statute, in cases brought
up by the United States under the earlier clauses of the act. That
quoted from United States v. Kissel, 218 U.
, so far as material, also meant that the
sufficiency of the indictment would not be considered here upon a
writ of error to the allowance of a plea in bar. In view of our
opinion upon the merits,
Page 242 U. S. 87
we do not discuss the preliminary objections at greater
Upon the merits, the proposition of the government is that the
doctrine of res judicata
does not exist for criminal cases
except in the modified form of the Fifth Amendment, that a person
shall not be subject for the same offense to be twice put in
jeopardy of life or limb, and the conclusion is drawn that a
decision upon a plea in bar cannot prevent a second trial when the
defendant never has been in jeopardy in the sense of being before a
jury upon the facts of the offense charged. It seems that the mere
statement of the position should be its own answer. It cannot be
that the safeguards of the person, so often and so rightly
mentioned with solemn reverence, are less than those that protect
from a liability in debt. It cannot be that a judgment of acquittal
on the ground of the statute of limitations is less a protection
against a second trial than a judgment upon the ground of
innocence, or that such a judgment is any more effective when
entered after a verdict than if entered by the government's consent
before a jury is empaneled; or that it is conclusive if entered
upon the general issue (United States v. Kissel,
218 U. S. 601
218 U. S.
), but, if upon a special plea of the statute,
permits the defendant to be prosecuted again. We do not suppose
that it would be doubted that a judgment upon a demurrer to the
merits would be a bar to a second indictment in the same words.
State v. Fields,
106 Ia. 406; Whart.Crim. Pl. & Pr.
9th ed. § 406.
Of course, the quashing of a bad indictment is no bar to a
prosecution upon a good one, but a judgment for the defendant upon
the ground that the prosecution is barred goes to his liability as
matter of substantive law, and one judgment that he is free as
matter of substantive law is as good as another. A plea of the
statute of limitations is a plea to the merits (United States
v. Barber, 219 U. S. 72
219 U. S. 78
and however the issue was raised in the former case,
Page 242 U. S. 88
after judgment upon it, it could not be reopened in a later
prosecution. We may adopt in its application to this case the
statement of a judge of great experience in the criminal law:
"Where a criminal charge has been adjudicated upon by a court
having jurisdiction to hear and determine it, the adjudication,
whether it takes the form of an acquittal or conviction, is final
as to the matter so adjudicated upon, and may be pleaded in bar to
any subsequent prosecution for the same offense. . . . In this
respect, the criminal law is in unison with that which prevails in
Hawkins, J., in The Queen v. Miles,
24 Q.B.D. 423, 431.
The finality of a previous adjudication as to the matters
determined by it is the ground of decision in Commonwealth v.
101 Mass. 25, the criminal and the civil law agreeing,
as Mr. Justice Hawkins says. Commonwealth v. Ellis,
Mass. 165; Brittain v. Kinnaird,
1 Brod. & B. 432.
Seemingly the same view was taken in Frank v. Mangum,
237 U. S. 309
237 U. S. 334
as it was also in Coffey v. United States, 116 U.
, 116 U. S.
The safeguard provided by the Constitution against the gravest
abuses has tended to give the impression that, when it did not
apply in terms, there was no other principle that could. But the
Fifth Amendment was not intended to do away with what, in the civil
law, is a fundamental principle of justice (Jeter v.
22 How. 352, 63 U. S. 364
order, when a man once has been acquitted on the merits, to enable
the government to prosecute him a second time.