The most obvious example of agreements tending to obstruct public justice are agreements to stifle criminal prosecutions. "You shall not make a trade of a felony. If you are aware that a crime has been committed, you shall not convert that crime into a source of benefit or profit to yourself."17 Not only is an agreement not to prosecute a person for a crime void on the ground that it is against public policy, but it is void because the agreement is in itself a crime.18 And the contract is void, whether made with the offender himself or with another for his benefit.19
by justice of peace whereby, in case the justice secures arrest, and the return of stolen property, he is to receive a percentage). See Weber v. Shay, 56 Ohio St. 116, 46 N. E. 377, 37 L. R. A. 230, 60 Am. St. Rep. 743 (contract by attorney to prevent indictment). Contract to withdraw opposition to probate of will not void. Seaman v. Colley, 17S Mass. 478, 59 N. E. 1017. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 129; Cent. Dip. §§ 616-682.
16 Burho v. Carmichael, 117 Minn. 211, 135 N. W. 3S6, Ann. Cas. 1913D, 305. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 129; Cent. Dig. §§ 616-632.
17 Williams v. Bayley, L. R. 1 H. L. 200. And see Collins v. Blantern, 2 Wils. 341, 1 Smith, Lead. Cas. 387, notes; Henderson v. Palmer, 71 I11. 579, 22 Am. Rep. 117; Roll v. Raguet, 4 Ohio, 400, 22 Am. Dec. 759; McMahan v. Smith, 47 Conn. 221, 36 Am. Rep. 67; Chandler v. Johnson, 39 Ga. 85; Schultz v. Culbertson, 46 Wis. 313, 1 N. W. 19; Meech v. Lee, 82 Mich. 274, 46 N. W. 383; Ricketts v. Harvey. 106 Ind. 564, 6 N. E. 325; Gorham v. Keyes, 137 Mass. 583; Friend v. Miller, 52 Kan. 139, 34 Pac. 397, 39 Am. St. Rep. 340; Smith v. Steely, 80 Iowa, 738, 45 N. W. 912; Foley v. Greene, 14 R. I. 618, 51 Am. Rep. 419; Davis v. Smith, 68 N. H. 253, 44 Atl. 384, 73 Am. St. Rep. 584; Kirkland v. Benjamin, 67 Ark. 480, 55 S. W. 840; Smith Premier Typewriter Co. v. Mayhew, 65 Neb. 65, 90 N. W. 993. A prosecution for seduction cannot be compounded. Budd v. Rutherford, 4 Ind. App. 386, 30 N. E. 1111. Nor prosecution for obstructing a highway. Amestoy v. Transit Co., 95 Cal. 311, 30 Pac. 550. A contract not to sue for pollution of stream, amounting to public nuisance, is void. Weston Paper Co. v. Comstock (Ind.) 58 N. E. 79. It makes no difference whether the agreement is express or implied. Janis v. Roentgen, 52 Mo. App. 114. If no crime was in fact committed, the contract is not illegal. Smith v. Blachley, 188 Pa. 550, 41 Atl. 619, 68 Am. St. Rep. 887; Treadwell v. Tobert, 122 Ala. 297, 25 South. 216; Woodham v. Allen, 130 Cal. 194, 62 Pac. 398. But see State v. Carver, 69 N. H. 216, 39 Atl. 973. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 128; Cent. Dig. §§ 633-653.
18 Clark, Cr. Law (2d Ed.) 383.
19 Beal-Doyle Dry Goods Co. v. Barton, 80 Ark. 326, 97 S. W. 58; Moyer v. Dodson, 212 Pa. 344, 61 Atl. 937. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 128; Cent. Dig. §§ 633-653.
It has been said that this rule is subject to exceptions in cases where civil and criminal remedies coexist, and that it is permissible in some cases to compromise with the offender, and agree not to prosecute him. In an English case it was said: "We shall probably be safe in laying it down that the law will permit a compromise of all offenses, though made the subject of a criminal prosecution, for which offenses the injured party might sue and recover damages in an action. It is often the only manner in which he can obtain redress. But if the offense is of a public nature, no agreement can be valid that is founded on the consideration of stifling a prosecution for it." 20 In the United States this distinction is not generally recognized, and it is held that an agreement to compound a crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, is illegal.21
Of course, persons may always settle any claims they may have against each other, even though the claim may arise from the crime of one of them, as from larceny or embezzlement, provided there is no agreement not to prosecute for the crime.22 It is the stifling of prosecutions which renders such agreements invalid. In some states parties are expressly permitted by statute to compromise prosecutions for certain misdemeanors.28