W:, D. North, Garolina. ,4.pril Term.tSSS.
MALICIOtJS':MISCHtEF"':'DESTRUCTIONOF ILLICIT WHISKY BY REVENUE OFFICER.
Where a·baiTel of whisky is without the stamps and brands required by law. the mere ,ppssession of title; and ,a revenue officer who seizes such'a b'arrel concealed private premises. and in good faith destroys it, is not 'guilty ofamisdemeanor under 1 Code N. C. § 1082, prohibiting "wanton and will!ulinjuries to personal property." ' .
Indictmentun<ier i CodeN. O. §1082, for a wantoll and willful injury to pereonal property. ThlJ,t section, as amended by Laws 1885, c. 53, p.94,isas follows: , II If I1-ny ,persoDshall wantonly. and willfully injure theperso:nalproperty of another, he shall bEl guilty 0; a misdebe punished meanor, whether the: propertybe destroyed or not, by fine or iInprisomnent, 01'. both, in the discretion of thecourt/' The jury returned a special B. F. Lo:ng, for the State. , . . " ,'. H. a. JO'M8;, Diet. Atty. , a:nd G. F. Brown, Asst. Dist. Atty., for defendant.
DICK, J. This indictment was found by a grand jury in a state court, and was duly removed to this court: for trial, upon the application of the defendil,nt, a revenue agent of the United States. The indictment i5 founded upon, section 1082 orthe Code of North Carolina, as amended by chapter 53 oBhe Acts of 1885. "The charge preferred against the defendant is a wanton and willful destruction of the personal property of John L. Shoemaker, a citizen of Iredell county. The only question directly involved in this case is whether the defendant committed the act in the manner and form set forth in the bill of in.; dictment. ,The object of the prosecution is not to afford redress for a private injury, but to vindicate the law alleged to have been.violated by the commission of a wanton and willful wrong injurious to the public welfare. Before passing upon the facts found by the jury in the special verdict, I ,will consider some questions of law that were presented and discussed by counsel in argunients before the court. The solicitor for the state said in the course his argument that the primary purpose of this prosecution was to have determined by judicial judgment the question of law whether an officer of theinternal revenue service of the United States could with impunity destroy private property, before it had been condemned, as forfeited in the manner provided by law. He insisted. with much earnestness and eloquence that the well-settled principles of the common law, and provisions of the state and federalconstitutions t had been grossly violated by the action of the dlilfendant, as a citizen of the state had been "deprived of his property without due processoI Jaw." I have already stated that this question cannot be properly determined in this trial, as it is not directly involved in the issues presented in the pleadings. It has an incidental connection with the transaction
NORTH .CAAOt,INA tf.' VA1'oi>tRFORD.
complaitiedof,as tenaing to show the spirit and purpose 'of the de'fendOn this view or the case, I think that lean with propriety express thestroug inclination of my opinion upon the matters that have been so ably aJidelaborately discussed. The rights of persons' in civil and private life are either absolute or relative, and most of them were clearly announced and asserted in magna charta. In the common law the rights of .persons are usually classed as consisting of the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right to acquire and enjoy.property; and ample provisions have been devised to preventwfongs that may 1)e attempted, and to redress injuries caused by. unlawful acts. Sec1ion:17,art.1, of our state constitution distinctly announces the principle50fthe commOn law in nearly the terms employecfin magna charta on this subject.. Article 5 of the amendments to the constitution of the U.nited :States only announces and reaffirms the ancient principles of the common law, and preveuts them from being unjustly invaded by the power of the federal government. The fourteenth amendmenhvas intended to preserve the rights, privileges, and immunities of all citizens of the United States from any unequal and unjust legislation of the states. It is unnecessary to cite judicial authorities to show that the fundamental principle of the common law is well established both in England and in this country; that a citizen may, in the manner and by the methods recognized and provided by the rules and regulations of law, acquire and enjoy property; and cannot be deprived of the same without due process of law. He is also entitled to have a legal opportunity of explanation and defense of any conduct alleged to be unlawful before he is deprived of any of his private rights of person or property. Property is the dominion that a person can legally acquire and exercise over external thinga. He must establish some legal right or title in himself to property which has been invadeq or destroyed by the negligent, unlawful, or malicious act of another, before he can sustain an action to recover damages for such alleged injury. The modes of acquiring property are either recognized or regulated by law, and there can be no right of property that is not legally vested. A man cannot acquire a right or title to property by any act declared by law to be criminal; and no right of action can arise out of an illegal or immoral transaction. Holman v. Johnson, Cowp. 341. The state and federal constitutions and the common law only afford protection to property, and secure its enjoymtmt, when legally acquired. This doctrine of the common law has been applied in numerous cases to rights claimed under contracts; and the principle is well settled that whenever the consideration of an agreement, or the act undertaken to be done, is in violation of law, good morals, or public policy, the agreement is void, and no alleged right founded upon it can be enforced in a court.TriBt v. Child, 21 Wall. 441; Oscanyan v. A7'm8 Co., 103 U. S. 261. The government of the United States has the constitutional power to control the business and the property of the citizen, in the exercise of the essential and inherent right of taxation; and the methods of aSl?essment, and the means and process of collecting and enforcing payment of taxes are matters clearly