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State v. Smith

Supreme Court of Arizona

January 19, 1948

STATE
v.
SMITH

Appeal from Superior Court, Coconino County; H. L. Russell, Judge.

Chester T. E. Smith was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident and he appeals.

Judgment reversed and case remanded.

Charlie W. Clark and Marshall W. Haislip, both of Phoenix, for appellant.

Evo De Conini, Atty. Gen., and Perry M. Ling, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

La Prade, Justice. Stanford, C. J., and Udall, J., concur.

OPINION

La Prade, Justice.

Page 206

[66 Ariz. 377] The appellant, defendant below, was charged by information with the crime of "Felony leaving scene of accident committed as follows, to-wit: The said Chester T. E. Smith on or about the 10th day of October 1947, and before the filing of this information in and at the County of Coconino, State of Arizona, then and there being did, then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously fail to stop and give his name and address, the names of the passengers in his vehicle, and the registration number of his vehicle to David Nunes, after the said Chester T. E. Smith had had a collision with a vehicle driven by the said David Nunes approximately 7 miles in a westerly direction from the Town of Williams, Coconino County, Arizona; the said Chester T. E. Smith was then and there the operator of a 1935 Ford truck;" (Emphasis supplied.)

Upon arraignment defendant entered a plea of guilty and was thereafter sentenced to an indeterminate term in the Arizona State Prison. From this judgment and sentence he has perfected an appeal to this court, assigning as error the fact that the information fails to state a public offense and that as a legal consequence the court was without jurisdiction to entertain the plea and render judgment. The information attempts to state an offense under the provisions of section 66-122, A.C.A.1939. This section is found in Chapter 66 relating to the use of motor vehicles and particularly under article 1 designated "Use of Highways by Vehicles." The pertinent portions of this section read as follows:

"Duty to stop in event of accident -- Penalty. -- The driver of any vehicle which collides with any person or any vehicle upon the highways, shall immediately stop, give his name and address, the names and addresses of all passengers, not exceeding five [5], in his vehicle and the registration number of his vehicle, to such person or to the occupants of the vehicle collided with, and shall immediately render reasonable assistance, including the carrying of such person to a physician for treatment, if such treatment is required or if carrying is requested by the person struck or by any occupant of the vehicle collided with. * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)

An information is a formal accusation against a person charging that he has committed an illegal act which is denounced by the state as a crime. It must indicate the crime charged and must contain a statement of the essential elements of the indicated crime. George v. Williams, 26 Ariz. 91, 222 P. 410; Elder v. United States, 9 Cir., 142 F.2d 199; Cochran v. United States, 157 U.S. 286, 290, 15 S.Ct. 286, 39 L.Ed. 704; United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 545, 557, 23 L.Ed. 588; Woolley v. [66 Ariz. 378] United States, 9 Cir., 97 F.2d 258, 261. A comparable fact situation is set forth in the recent case of State v. Valdez, 51 N.M. 393, 185 P.2d 977, 978. There the court said: "* * * Where the challenge to the information is based upon an omission in the averments of an essential element of the crime, jurisdiction of the subject matter cannot be conferred by consent, as in this case by pleas of guilty, and hence objections to the jurisdiction may be made for the first time in the Supreme Court. State v. City of Albuquerque, 31 N.M. 576, 249 P. 242; State v. Diamond, 27 N.M. 477, 202 P. 988, 20 A.L.R. 1527; Sais v. City Electric Co., 26 N.M. 66, 188 P. 1110. See, also, 24 C.J.S., Criminal Law, § 1671 page 274, and cases cited."

In our case of Burris v. Davis,46 Ariz. 127, 46 P.2d 1084, 1086, the defendant entered a plea of guilty in the justice court to a charge of driving an automobile while intoxicated. After being sentenced to the county jail he attempted to perfect an appeal to the superior court, which was refused. He then perfected an appeal to this court where judgment was reversed and the case remanded with instructions to permit him to perfect his appeal in the superior court notwithstanding the fact that a plea of guilty had been entered by defendant in the justice court. ...


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