Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The occasions when an equity court may properly enjoin a criminal prosecution remain the exception to the general rule of non-intervention. Courts of equity are not constituted to deal with crimes and criminal proceedings. They have no power to punish admitted offenders of a challenged penal statute after holding it to be valid, or to compensate those injured by the violations thereof while the hands of the officers of the law have been stayed by injunction. To that extent such courts are incapable of affording a complete remedy. Equity, therefore, takes no part in the administration of the criminal law. It neither aids, restrains, nor obstructs criminal courts in the exercise of their jurisdiction. Ordinarily a court of equity deals only with civil cases involving property rights where it can afford a complete remedy by injunctive relief. Hence it does not interfere in the enforcement of penal statutes even though invalid unless there be exceptional circumstances and a clear showing that an injunction is urgently necessary to afford adequate protection to rights of property so as to circumvent great and irreparable injury until the validity of the particular penal statute is sustained.
The retailer opened a retail clothing business in the town. The town informed her that she would not be able to open her business until she paid to the town a license fee, furnished a bond, and applied for both a state and town transient vendor's license under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 101, § 3. The retailer opened her business and refused to obtain the transient vendor's license contending that she was not and will not be a transient vendor. The town filed criminal charges against her. The retailer filed an action for injunctive relief that sought to enjoin the town from enforcing the provisions of § 3 against her. The trial court granted the retailer's petition for injunctive relief. Defendant town appealed.
Could the court enjoin the town from enforcing the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 101, § 3 against the retailer, notwithstanding the fact that a prior criminal complaint was filed by the town against the retailer?
On appeal, the court reversed the decision and entered a new judgment dismissing the action. The court found that the retailer initiated her action in an attempt to enjoin the pending criminal prosecution. The court held that fundamental jurisprudential considerations prohibit against enjoining a pending criminal prosecution.