I collect old police manuals, mostly because I like to see what police were directed to do before the exclusionary rule came into the picture. I also enjoy reading the lists of crimes that appear in some of these guides. Are these lists as interesting as the “Mad Men” / Rick Astley mash-up? No. But I take what I can get.
Some of these crimes are still with us; others have vanished from courtrooms in the intervening years. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re off the books; here in California, for example, it’s still a misdemeanor (as it has been since 1872) to kill, wound, or trap any bird within a cemetery, or to destroy any bird’s nest within a cemetery — except, of course, for swallows’ nests, which are specifically exempted by the pertinent statute (Penal Code 598). (Thinking.) Nope, I can’t say that I recall ever invoking this law back when I was a deputy D.A.
One police manual in my collection, M.J. Delahanty’s The Policeman’s Legal Digest, offers an interesting list of crimes that were on the books in circa-1934 New York. In addition to murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, and other longtime staples of the criminal docket, the Digest also told officers that they should stay on the lookout for many other crimes that no longer weigh heavily on the minds of most New Yorkers.
For each crime listed in the Digest, the manual identifies the essential elements of the offense (often in a somewhat confusing flowchart manner), as well as the section of the Penal Law or other New York code that relates the crime. Some of the more exotic — by modern standards — crimes related in the Digest are (the list goes on, and on, after the jump):
Compulsory Prostitution of Wife (Penal Law sec. 1090)
Adultery (PL 100)
Compelling a Woman to Marry (PL 532)
Seduction (PL 2175)
Immoral Plays and Exhibitions (PL 1140-A)
Wayward Minor (C.Cr.P 913-A)
Abortion (PL 80)
Self-Abortion (PL 81)
Manufacturing or Selling (miscarriage) Instruments (PL 82)