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U.S. Supreme Court

District of Columbia v. Colts, 282 U.S. 63 (1930)

District of Columbia v. Colts

No. 96

Argued October 23, 1930

Decided November 24, 1930

282 U.S. 63


1. Article III, § 2, cl. 3, of the Constitution, which provides that "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury," must be interpreted in the light of the common law, according to which petty offenses might be proceeded against summarily before a magistrate sitting without a jury. P. 282 U. S. 72.

2. It is settled that there may be many offenses called "petty offenses" which do not rise to the degree of "crimes" within the meaning of Article III, and in respect of which Congress may dispense with a jury trial. Id.

3. Whether a given offense is to be classed as a crime, so as to require a jury trial, or as a petty offense, triable summarily without a jury, depends primarily upon the nature of the offense. P. 282 U. S. 73.

4. Driving at a forbidden rate of speed and so recklessly "as to endanger property and individuals," in violation of the District of Columbia Traffic Act, is an offense which is malum in se and of a serious character, amounting to a public nuisance indictable at common law, and is a "crime" within the constitutional guarantee of trial by jury. Art. III, § 2, cl. 3. Id.

38 F.2d 535 affirmed.

Certiorari, 281 U.S. 716, to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, reversing a judgment of the Police Court, which had denied to the

Page 282 U. S. 64

respondent a jury trial upon an information against him charging reckless driving.

Page 282 U. S. 70

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