UNITED STATES V. CORBETT, 215 U. S. 233 (1909)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Corbett, 215 U.S. 233 (1909)

United States v. Corbett

No. 236

Argued October 14, 1909

Decided December 6, 1909

215 U.S. 233


Whether the person deceived by false entries is the person intended by the statute, and whether the averments as to the deceit are sufficient to sustain the indictment, are questions which involve the construction of the statute on which an indictment for making false entries in violation of § 5209, Rev.Stat., is based, and this Court has jurisdiction to review under the Criminal Appeals Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246.

The construction of a statute in a particular in regard to which no question was raised will not prevent the determination as an original question of how the statute should be construed in that particular when controverted in a subsequent case.

The rule of strict construction of penal statutes does not require a narrow technical meaning to be given to words in disregard of their context and so as to frustrate the obvious legislative intent.

Notwithstanding the rule of strict construction, the offense of deceiving an agent by doing a specified act may include deception of the officer appointing the agent where the statute is clearly aimed at the deception, and under 5209, Rev.Stat., the making of false

Page 215 U. S. 234

entries with the intent to deceive any agent appointed to examine the affairs of a national bank includes an attempt to deceive the Comptroller of the Currency by false entries made in a report directly to him under § 5311, Rev.Stat.

Where intent is an essential ingredient of a crime, it may be charged in general terms, and its existence becomes a question for the jury, excepting only where the criminal intent could not as a matter of law have existed under any possible circumstances.

Under Rev.Stat. § 5209, false entries as to the condition of a national bank may be made with intent to injure the bank even though they show the bank to be in a more favorable condition than it actually is, and the question of intent to injure is one for the jury.

___ F. ___ reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of § 5209, Rev.Stat., are stated in the opinion.

Page 215 U. S. 236

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