Thursday, December 5, 2013

United States v. Doe case brief

United States v. Doe case brief summary
465 U.S. 605 (1984)

Petitioner United States appealed the judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which affirmed an order that quashed a subpoena of the business records of a sole proprietorship in the possession of respondent owner, on the grounds that the records themselves were privileged, and the act of producing the records was privileged, under theU.S. Constitutional Amendment V right against self-incrimination.

A grand jury subpoenaed the business records of respondent owner's sole proprietorship. Holding that the records were not protected by the U.S. Constitutional Amendment V privilege against self-incrimination, but that the act of producing such records was, the court affirmed and reversed the judgment in parts.


  • The court held that because respondent had voluntarily prepared the records, their production was not compulsory as was contemplated by the U.S. Constitutional Amendment V. 
  • The court refused to apply a zone of privacy to protect an individual and his personal records from compelled production. 
  • The court reiterated that it had never appliedAmendment V to prevent the otherwise proper acquisition or use of evidence that did not involve compelled testimonial self-incrimination. 
  • But the court held that the act of production would involve tacit testimonial aspects and incriminating effect, including an admission that the records existed, that they were in respondent's control, and that they were what the subpoena described. 
  • The court declined to implement a form of constructive use immunity to compel production, remanding instead for petitioner United States to grant statutory immunity if desired.

The court reversed the judgment to the extent that it held that respondent owner's voluntarily created business records were subject to the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, but affirmed the judgment as to the act of producing the records. The compelled production of the records involved tacit testimonial aspects which tended to incriminate respondent.

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