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Not only is it a legitimate exercise of police power to place the control of a minor's property in the hands of a guardian; but it is equally competent to place under guardianship the person and property of all other persons, who from any cause may become unable to take care of themselves. There can be no doubt of the power to treat the insane in this manner. And it has been held to be competent, in the exercise of the police power, to place habitual drunkards under guardianship. The assumption by the guardian of the control of the property of the drunkard would not be an unlawful deprivation of property. The derangement of mind, resulting from habitual drinking, would place him in the same category with the ordinary insane. The claim has also been made that the property of spendthrifts may be taken from them and placed under the control of a guardian or curator.? But it would appear to be a very difficult matter to determine just what degree of extravagance will make the possessor of property a spendthrift. And before that difficulty could be overcome, it would be necessary to determine what makes one a spendthrift. Webster defines a spendthrift to be “one who spends money profusely or improvidently." If that be taken as a correct definition, it would be difficult to discover in it the element which would justify this exercise of police power. If it be established that his improvident expenditures are the acts of a deranged mind, then he could lawfully be placed under guardianship, on the ground that he is suffering from a form of dementia. But if a perfectly sane man chooses to spend a fortune in high living; prefers the pleasures of a riotous life, with poverty in advanced years, to an equable and moderate expenditure of his income, with the enjoyment of ease and comfort through life, and a proper provision for his heirs; who can lawfully hinder him from making the choice? A man can do what he please with his own property, provided he does not interfere with or transgress some vested right of another. He may, like Raphael Aben Ezra, give away his entire fortune, and hecome a beggar and a wanderer upon the face of the earth; and no one in a free State dare deny him that privilege. And what he could give away, without receiving any equivlent therefor, he may dispose of in riotous living.
1 Wadsworth o. Sharpsteen, 8 N. Y. 388. Imhoff v. Whitmer, 21 Pa. St. 243; Devin v. Scott, 34 Ind. 67. See Schouler Dom. Rel. 404.
§ 139. Destruction of personal property on account of illegal use.' - In a variety of cases, it has been provided, as a penalty for the infraction of the law, that the implements used in the prosecution of an unlawful trade, or in the doing of an illegal act, shall be seized and destroyed. It is a most common provision in the laws for the regulation and prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors.: The same provision has been made to apply to nets and other implements employed in illegal fishing ; so also in respect to the stock in trade of a gambler. But in all of these cases the seizure and destruction must rest upon a judgment of forfeiture, procured at the close of an ordinary trial, in which the owner of the property has had a full opportunity to be heard in defense of his property. Conceding in every case the illegality of the use to which the property has been put, the constitutionality of the statute cannot be questioned, when the proper hearing is provided for before condemnation.
1 In respect to the destruction of domestic animals for being nui. sances, see post, $ 141.
2 State v. Miller, 48 Me. 576; State v. Snow, 3 R. I. 54; Greene o. James, 2 Curt. 187.
3 Jeck v. Anderson, 57 Cal. 251 (40 Am. Rep. 115); Weller 0. Snover, 42 N. J. L. (13 Vroom) 341.
* Lowry v. Rainwater, 70 Mo. 152 (35 Am. Rep. 420).
5 Greene 0. James, 2 Curt. 187; Jeck v. Anderson, 57 Cal. 251 (40 Am. Rep. 115); Lowry v. Rainwater, 70 Mo. 152 (35 Am. Rep. 420).
SECTION. 140. Laws regulating the use of personal property.
140a. Prohibition of possession of certain property.
§ 140. Laws regulating the use of personal property.While personal property is protected by constitutional limitations against all unnecessary interference and regulation, it is a standard rule of police power that one must not make such a use of his property as to injure another; and consequently the use and enjoyment of personal property may be subjected to such police regulations as may be necessary to prevent any threatened injury to the public. The proof of the existence of a threatened injury, and of the appropriateness of the proposed regulation as a remedy, will always justify the interference. Its efficacy is not a matter for judicial consideration. Laws for the regulation of the use of personal property may be as varied as the uses to which such property can be put; and it is only possible to a refer to few exemplary cases, which have come up before the courts for construction.
§ 140a. Prohibition of possession of certain property. In the first place, the very possession of personal property, coupled with an intent proven or presumed, may be such a public evil as to justify the probibition of such a possession. Thus, a Rhode Island statute forbade the possession, with intent to sell or exchange, of adulterated milk, and it was declared to be constitutional. But the unlawful intent would, in such a case, have to be proven. Without this intent, the possession of the adulterated milk neither produces nor threatens any harm to the public; and since adulterated milk may be put to some other use, which is not, and cannot, be prohibited, the unlawful intent to sell cannot be presumed from the mere possession. But it is different when the thing cannot be put to any unobjectionable use. In such a case the thing cannot be presumed to be of any value to its owner except on the hypothesis ; that he intends to make this injurious use of it, and hence the wrongful intent may be presumed from the act of the possession. Thus the constitutionality of a statute was sustained which imposed a penalty upon any one who should have in his possession any dead game in certain seasons of the year.
i State v. Smyth, 14 R. I. 100 (51 Am. Rep. 344).
§ 1406. Regulation and prohibition of manufacture of certain property. — As a general proposition, it can hardly be doubted that one has a constitutional right to change the form and condition of his personal property to whatever extent he may see fit; and he may make a business of manufacturing a given article, provided he does not threaten the public with any injury. And it may be safely stated that the manufacture of no useful article may be prohibited altogether. If the article can be put to a lawful and rightful use, it matters not how likely it will be used in a way harmful to the public, the right to manufacture it cannot be prohibited altogether. As has been already explained, in setting forth the various regulations that may be applied to trades and occupations, the manufacture of the article may be subjected to whatever regulations may be necessary to guard the public against injury in the process of manufacture, or afterwards in a wrongful use of it. Those who engage in its manufacture may be required to submit to a certain examination, in order to ascertain their fitness for the business, and to take out a license, if the manufacture requires such regulations. And if the danger to the public of a wrongful and illegitimate use of the manufac
1 Phelps v. Racey, 60 N. Y. 10 (19 Am. Rep. 140). * See ante 88 89, 101–105.
tured article be so imminent as to call for such legislation, as seems very likely to happen with reference to the manufacture of dynamite, nitro-glycerine, and other like explosive compounds, the manufacture of it for the purpose of sale, that is, as a business, may be prohibited to all but a few licensed manufacturers or the agents of the State. But if, in the actual manufacture of the thing, without police supervision, as in the case of dynamite, there is no danger to the public, the fact that it can be put to a wrongful use will not justify legislation which prohibits the owner of the raw material to manufacture the article which he does not intend to sell, but to make use of in a legitimate way. The manufacture of dynamite may be prohibited, as a business, to all but licensed manufacturers, because his intention to sell makes it very likely or at least possible that the identical stuff will be employed in some uplawful way. But when one manufactures it for his own lawful use, he has done nothing to disturb the public safety.
The regulations concerning the manufacture of metallic money are of this character of police regulations. It is true, that the sole power of coining money is given by the United States constitution to the national government. But, except as a restriction upon the power of the States, the constitutional provision was not necessary. It certainly was not needed to authorize the prohibition of the manufacture of metallic money by the individual. For whatever scientific objections may be made to such regulations by sociological writers, it cannot be denied that the free and indiscriminate coinage would lead to the perpetration of many frauds of those who are least able to discover them. For this reason the government reserves to itself the right to coin money, and punishes severely any counterfeiting of the coins of this and any other country. Not
1 U.S. Copst. ? See U. S. Rev. Statutes, $$ 5457, 5458. See post, $ 206.