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Points On Criminal Law

( Originally Published 1918 )

Ignorance No Excuse.—Every person is presumed to know what the law is, and ignorance is no excuse for crime.

Arrests.-Anyone without a warrant may arrest a person committing a felony in his presence, and any peace officer may arrest a person while committing a breach of the peace or immediately afterwards. Furthermore, a private citizen may arrest without a warrant if a felony has in fact been committed and if he has reasonable ground for believing that the person arrested is the guilty party. An officer is generally held to be justified in arresting without a warrant for a felony, if he has reasonable ground to believe that a felony has been committed and that the person arrested is the perpetrator, although it turns out that no felony has been committed.

The rule, "Every man's house is his castle," does not hold good in criminal cases, and an officer may break open doors of the criminal's house to execute a warrant; and he may do so without a warrant, as also a private person, in fresh pursuit, under circumstances which authorize him to make an arrest.

Warrants.—No warrant shall be issued but upon probable cause, supported by oath, or affirmation.

Innocence Presumed.—Every one is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved.

Bound to Aid the Sheriff.—Every man is bound to obey the call of a sheriff for assistance in making an arrest.

An Accident is not a crime, unless criminal carelessness can be shown.

"Settling" an Offense.—It is in many states an indictable offense for the party immediately aggrieved to agree with a thief or other felon that he will not prosecute him, on condition that he return the stolen goods, or to take a reward not to prosecute.

Embezzlement is the wrongful appropriation of the money or goods of another by one entrusted therewith. It was not indictable at common law, but has been made a felony by various statutes. Public officers, bank cashiers, clerks, and others acting in a fiduciary capacity are peculiarly liable to be charged with this offense.

By National Bank Officers.-In order to convict a national bank official of embezzlement, according to a recent decision by a federal court : "It must appear from the evidence that the moneys, funds, credits, or assets of the association, alleged to have been embezzled, were previously to their wrongful appropriation, lawfully in the possession and custody of the defendant, and that they were, while so held by him, wrong-fully converted to his own use. It is not, how-ever, necessary that he should have been in the exclusive custody or possession at the time of the conversion to his own use, in order to constitute this offense. If the evidence establishes that the business and assets of the bank were actually or practically intrusted to the care and management of the defendant, so that by virtue of his position as vice-president, director, or agent, he had not merely access to, or a constructive holding of, but such actual custody of the funds, moneys, and credits of the association as enabled him to have and exercise control over the same, that would place him in the lawful possession of said funds or property; and if, while so lawfully in possession of such assets, funds and credits, or other property committed to his care and custody for the benefit of the bank, he wrongfully converts any part or portion of said assets to his own use, with intent to injure or defraud the association, he would thereby commit the offense of embezzlement. If his position and employment gave the defendant a superior or a joint and concurrent possession with subordinate employees or agents of the bank, that would be sufficient to place him in such lawful possession as would enable him to commit the crime of embezzlement in relation to assets of the bank so committed to his keeping."

Drunkenness is not a legal excuse for crime, but sometimes is evidence of the absence of malice.

Self-Accusation.—No one ought to accuse him-self except before God.

A Married Woman who commits a crime in the presence of her husband, unless it is of a very aggravated character, is in some states presumed to act by his coercion, and, unless the contrary is proved, she is not responsible. Under other circumstances she is liable, criminally, as if she were a single woman.

Insane Persons and others who are incapable of judging between right and wrong are usually absolved from criminal responsibility, though they may be liable civilly for damage done by their wrongful acts.

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