396 U.S. 77 (1969), 17, United States v. Knox

Docket Nº:No. 17
Citation:396 U.S. 77, 90 S.Ct. 363, 24 L.Ed.2d 275
Party Name:United States v. Knox
Case Date:December 08, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 77

396 U.S. 77 (1969)

90 S.Ct. 363, 24 L.Ed.2d 275

United States

v.

Knox

No. 17

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 8, 1969

Argued October 14, 1969

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS

Syllabus

This is an appeal by the Government from the dismissal of two counts of an indictment charging appellee with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001 by making false statements in wagering tax forms required by 26 U.S.C. § 4412. The District Court dismissed the indictment, reasoning that appellee could not be prosecuted for "failure to answer the wagering form correctly," since his privilege against self-incrimination would have prevented prosecution for "failure to answer the form in any respect."

Held:

1. One who furnishes false information to the Government in feigned compliance with a statutory requirement cannot defend against prosecution for his fraud by challenging the validity of the requirement itself. Bryson v. United States, ante, p. 64. Pp. 79-80.

2. By filing false statements, appellee took a course other than the one that § 4412 was designed to compel, a course that the Fifth Amendment gave him no privilege to take. Pp. 81-82.

3. Whether, as appellee argues, he gave the false information under the duress of §§ 4412 and 7203 of the Internal Revenue Code, or his false statements were not made "willfully" as required by 18 U.S.C. § 1001, must be determined initially at his trial. Pp. 82-84.

298 F.Supp. 1260, reversed.

Page 78

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellee Knox has been charged with six counts of violation of federal law in connection with his wagering activities. The first four counts of the indictment charge that, between July, 1964, and October, 1965, he engaged in the business of accepting wagers without first filing Internal Revenue Service Form 11-C, the special return and registration application required by § 4412 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, and without first paying the occupational tax imposed by § 4411 of the Code. Counts Five and Six charge that, when Knox did file such a form on October 14, 1965, and when he filed a supplemental form the next day, he knowingly and willfully understated the number of employees accepting wagers on his behalf -- in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a general criminal provision punishing fraudulent statements made to any federal agency.

Knox moved to dismiss the indictment, asserting that this Court's decisions in Marchetti v. United States, 390 U.S. 39 (1968), and Grosso v. United States, 390 U.S. 62 (1968), had held invalid1 the provisions of the wagering tax laws that required him to file the special return. The Government, in response, stated that it would not pursue the first four counts, but argued that Knox's objections based on the Marchetti and Grosso decisions were "largely irrelevant" to Counts Five and Six. The District Court disagreed. It dismissed all six counts, reasoning that Knox could not be prosecuted for his "failure to answer the wagering form correctly," since his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination would have prevented prosecution for "failure to answer the form in any respect." 298 F.Supp. 1260, 1261. The United States filed a direct appeal to this Court

Page 79

from the dismissal of the two count charging violations of § 1001, and we noted probable jurisdiction, 394 U.S. 971 (1969).2

In Bryson v. United States, ante, p. 64, decided today, we reaffirmed the holding of Dennis v. United States, 384 U.S. 855 (1966), that one who furnishes false information to the Government in feigned compliance with a statutory requirement cannot defend against prosecution for his fraud by challenging the validity of the requirement itself. Bryson, like Dennis,

Page 80

involved § 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, 61 Stat. 146, which was attacked as an abridgment of First Amendment freedoms and as a bill of attainder forbidden by Art. I, § 9, of the Constitution. In contrast, Knox alleges infringement of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. We do not think that the different constitutional source for Knox's claim removes his case from the ambit of the principle laid down in those decisions. The validity of the Government's demand for information is no more an element of a violation of § 1001 here than it was in Bryson.3

The indictment charges that the forms Knox filed with the District Director of Internal Revenue contained false, material information,4 an accusation [90 S.Ct. 366] that concededly

Page 81

falls within the terms of § 1001. However, Knox claims that the Fifth Amendment bars punishing him for the filings because they were not voluntary, but were compelled by §§ 4412 and 7203 of the Internal Revenue Code. He points out that, if he had filed truthful and complete forms as required by § 4412, he would have incriminated himself under Texas wagering laws. On the other hand, if he had filed no forms at all, he would have subjected himself to criminal prosecution under § 7203.5 In choosing the third alternative, submission of a fraudulent form, he merely opted for the least of three evils, under a form of duress that allegedly makes his choice involuntary for purposes of the Fifth Amendment.

Page 82

For this proposition, Knox relies on United States v. Lookretis, 398 F.2d 64 (C.A. 7th Cir.1968), where, after this Court had remanded for reconsideration in light of Marchetti, see 390 U.S. 338 (1968), the Court of Appeals ruled that truthful disclosures made under the compulsion of § 4412 could not be introduced against their maker in a criminal proceeding. However, the Fifth Amendment was offended in Lookretis precisely because the defendant had succumbed to the statutory compulsion by furnishing the requested incriminatory information. Knox does not claim that his prosecution is based upon any incriminatory information contained in the forms he filed, nor that he is being prosecuted for a failure to supply incriminatory information. He has taken a course other than the one that the statute was designed to compel, a course that the Fifth Amendment gave him no privilege to take.

This is not to deny that the presence of §§ 4412 and 7203 injected an element of pressure into Knox's predicament at the time he filed the forms. At that time, this Court's decisions in United States v. Kahriger, 345 U.S. 22 (1953), and Lewis v. United States, 348 U.S. 419 (1955), established that the Fifth Amendment did not bar prosecution for failure to file a form such as 11-C. But when Knox responded to the pressure under which he found himself by communicating false information, this was simply not testimonial compulsion. [90 S.Ct. 367] Knox's ground for complaint is not that his false information inculpated him for a prior or subsequent criminal act; rather, it is that, under the compulsion of §§ 4412 and 7203, he committed a criminal act, that of giving false information to the Government. If the compulsion was unlawful under Marchetti,6 Knox may have a defense to

Page 83

this prosecution under the traditional doctrine that a person is not criminally responsible for an act committed under duress. See generally Model Penal Code §§ 2.09, 3.02 (Proposed Official Draft, 1962); id. § 2.09, Comment (Tent.Draft No. 10, 1960). It is only in this sense that there is any relevance to Knox's attempted distinction of this case from Dennis, Bryson, and their predecessors, United States v. Kapp, 302 U.S. 214 (1937), and Kay v. United States, 303 U.S. 1 (1938), on the ground that, in those cases, the false statements were voluntarily filed for the purpose of obtaining benefits from the Government.

Knox argues that the criminal sanction for failure to file, coupled with the danger of incrimination if he filed truthfully, was more coercive in its effect than, for...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP