Friday, November 15, 2013

United States v. Freed case brief

United States v. Freed case brief summary
401 U.S. 601 (1971)

The United States sought review of the order of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, which dismissed state charges of possession and conspiracy to possess unregistered hand grenades and held that the federal registration of weapons under the National Firearms Act violated defendants' right against self-incrimination.

Defendants had been charged under state law with possession of and conspiracy to possess unregistered hand grenades and contended that the federal registration of firearms violated the self-incrimination clause of U.S. Constitutional amendment V. The district court agreed and granted defendants' motion to dismiss and also held that the charges did not allege the element of scienter.

  • On direct appeal, the United States Supreme Court reversed. 
  • The Court found that under the National Firearms Act, only those who lawfully made, manufactured, or imported firearms were required to register them.
  • However, it was unlawful for any person to receive or possess a firearm that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. 
  • Registration information was not available to state or federal authorities other than the Internal Revenue Service and could not be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding with respect to a prior or concurrent violation of law. 
  • The Court held that scienter need not have been alleged because this was a regulatory measure in the interest of the public safety and it was self-evident that possession of hand grenades was not an innocent act.

The Court reversed, holding that defendants' motion to dismiss should not have been granted because the National Firearms Act did not violate the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment.

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