Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cheek v. United States case brief (498 U.S. 192)

Cheek v. United States
498 U.S. 192 (1991)

The D, Cheek, was a professional pilot who was charged with willfully failing to pay his federal income tax.
-D argued that he honestly believed that he did not have to pay his taxes because tax laws were unconstitutional.

-D also argued that he honestly believed that wages were not income included under the tax laws.

The trial court and the Court of Appeals convicted Cheek on the grounds that his beliefs were objectively unreasonable.
1. In order for the D to use his honest beliefs as defense, do the beliefs need to be objectively reasonable? 
2. Can the D use his belief that tax laws are unconstitutional as a defense? 
3. Can the D use the belief that wages are not income as a defense?

Holding: 1. No
2. No
3. Yes
ANALYSIS-Court ruled that honest beliefs of the D do not have to be objectively reasonable and as long as the defendant honestly does something without the guilty mind, he should be allowed to use his beliefs a defense. 
-The court further held that the defendant in the current case was aware of the fact that he had to pay taxes and he, as a matter of fact, had paid his taxes in the past.
-D's argument that tax laws are unconstitutional is not the innocent mistake which can be used as a defense. The defendant could have paid his taxes and could have challenged the constitutionality of the tax laws in the court, but he did not do so. So the defendant's unconstitutional argument is not an innocent mistake and can not be used as a defense. -However, the court held that the defendant's belief, that wages are not income, can be introduced as defense and it is up to the jury to decide whether these beliefs are honest.

Link to case498 U.S. 192

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