United States v. Staat (1850) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In United States v. Staat (1850), 49 U.S. 41, the Supreme Court was called upon to determine whether an indictment charging the transmission of a false (but not forged) affidavit touching a claim for pension was sustainable under the third clause of the section.

The Supreme Court fully analyzed the statute and while conceding that other clauses of the act dealt with forged instruments in a technical sense, concluded that the case was within both the letter and the spirit of the act and therefore that the acts charged in the indictment constituted an offense within the provisions of the law.

It was ruled that where a crime is made a felony by statute, it is not necessary to charge that it was feloniously committed, unless the statute itself makes a felonious intent an element of the offense.

In that case, under an act of Congress declaring that if any person should transmit to any officer of the government, any writing in support of any claim, with intent to defraud the United States, knowing the same to be forged, such person should be adjudged guilty of felony, it was held to be sufficient that the indictment charged the act to have been done "with intent to defraud the United States," without also charging that it was done feloniously, or with a felonious intent.

In the opinion it was admitted that, in cases of felonies at common law, and some also by statute, the felonious intent was deemed an essential ingredient, and the indictment would be defective, even after verdict, unless such intent was averred; but it was held that, under the statute in question, the felonious intent was no part of the description, as the offence was complete without it, and that the felony was only a conclusion of law, from the acts done with the intent described, and hence was not necessary to be charged in the indictment.