Hoffman v. United States, No. 513

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCLARK
Citation71 S.Ct. 814,95 L.Ed. 1118,341 U.S. 479
Docket NumberNo. 513
Decision Date28 May 1951
PartiesHOFFMAN v. UNITED STATES

341 U.S. 479
71 S.Ct. 814
95 L.Ed. 1118
HOFFMAN

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 513.
Argued April 25, 1951.
Decided May 28, 1951.

Mr.

Page 480

William A. Gray, Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioner.

Mr. John F. Davis, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner has been convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to obey a federal court order requiring him to answer certain questions asked in a grand jury investigation. He raises here important issues as to the application of the privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, claimed to justify his refusal.

Page 481

A special federal grand jury was convened at Philadelphia on September 14, 1950, to investigate frauds upon the Federal Government, including violations of the customs, narcotics and internal revenue liquor laws of the United States, the White Slave Traffic Act, perjury, bribery, and other federal criminal laws, and conspiracy to commit all such offenses. In response to subpoena petitioner appeared to testify on the day the grand jury was empaneled, and was examined on October 3. The pertinent interrogation, in which he refused to answer, follows:

'Q. What do you do now, Mr. Hoffman? A. I refuse to answer.

'Q. Have you been in the same undertaking since the first of the year? A. I don't understand the question.

'Q. Have you been doing the same thing you are doing now since the first of the year? A. I refuse to answer.

'Q. Do you know Mr. William Weisberg? A. I do.

'Q. How long have you known him? A. Practically twenty years, I guess.

'Q. When did you last see him? A. I refuse to answer.

'Q. Have you seen him this week? A. I refuse to answer.

'Q. Do you know that a subpoena has been issued for Mr. Weisberg? A. I heard about it in Court.

'Q. Have you talked with him on the telephone this week? A. I refuse to answer.

'Q. Do you know where Mr. William Weisberg is now? A. I refuse to answer.'

Page 482

It was stipulated that petitioner declined to answer on the ground that his answers might tend to incriminate him of a federal offense.

Petitioner's claim of privilege was challenged by the Government in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which found no real and substantial danger of incrimination to petitioner and ordered him to return to the grand jury and answer. Petitioner stated in open court that he would not obey the order, and on October 5 was adjudged in criminal contempt and sentenced to five months imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 401; Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 42(a), 18 U.S.C.A.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where the record was docketed on October 11. After denial by the District Court of his request for bail pending appeal, petitioner on October 20 filed in that court a 'Petition for Reconsideration of Allowance of Bail Pending Appeal,' alleging that 'on the basis of the facts contained in his affidavit, attached * * *, he was justified in his refusal to answer the questions as aforesaid, or, in any event, that there is so substantial a question involved that your petitioner should be released on bail * * *.' In the accompanying affidavit petitioner asserted that

'He assumed when he refused to answer the questions involved before the Grand Jury, that both it and the Court were cognizant of, and took into consideration, the facts on which he based his refusals to answer.

'He has since been advised, after his commitment, that the Court did not consider any of said facts upon which he relied and, on the contrary, the Court considered only the bare record (of the questions and answers as set out above).

Page 483

'In the interest of justice and particularly in aid of a proper determination of the above petition, he submits the following in support of his position that he genuinely feared to answer the questions propounded:

'(a) This investigation was stated, in the charge of the Court to the Grand Jury, to cover 'the gamut of all crimes covered by federal statute.' * * *

'(b) Affiant has been publicly charged with being a known underworld character, and a racketeer with a twenty year police record, including a prison sentence on a narcotics charge. * * *

'(c) Affiant, while waiting to testify before the Grand Jury, was photgraphed with one Joseph N. Bransky, head of the Philadelphia office of the United States Bureau of Narcotics. * * *

'(d) Affiant was questioned concerning the whereabouts of a witness who had not been served with a subpoena and for whom a bench warrant was sought by the Government prosecutor. * * *

'On the basis of the above public facts as well as the facts within his own personal knowledge, affiant avers that he had a real fear that the answers to the questions asked by the Grand Jury would incriminate him of a federal offense.'

Included as appendices to the affidavit were clippings from local newspapers, of dates current with the grand-jury proceeding, reporting the facts asserted in the affidavit. On October 23 the District Court allowed bail. On the following day the petition for reconsideration of allowance of bail, including affidavit and appendices, was filed in the Court of Appeals as a supplemental record on appeal. The Government moved to strike this matter on the ground that it was not properly part of the appeal record.

Page 484

The Court of Appeals granted the motion to strike and affirmed the conviction. 1950, 185 F.2d 617, 620. With respect to the questions regarding Weisberg, the court held unanimously that 'the relationship between possible admissions in answer to the questions * * * and the proscription of (pertinent federal criminal statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1501)) would need to be much closer for us to conclude that there was real danger in answering.' As to the questions concerning petitioner's business, the court observed that 'It is now quite apparent that the appellant could have shown beyond question that the danger was not fanciful.' In the court's view the data submitted in the supplemental record 'would rather clearly be adequate to establish circumstantially the likelihood that appellant's assertion of fear of incrimination was not mere contumacy.' But the Court of Appeals concluded, again unanimously, that the information offered in support of the petition for reconsideration of bail 'was not before the court when it found appellant in contempt, and therefore cannot be considered now.' Thus limited to the record originally filed, the majority of the court was of the opinion, with respect to the business questions, that 'the witness here failed to give the judge any information which would allow the latter to rule intelligently on the claim of privilege for the witness simply refused to say anything and gave no facts to show why he refused to say anything.' One judge dissented, concluding that the District Court knew that...

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1654 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Sweets, No. 06-4008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • July 3, 2007
    ...act did not "furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant for a federal crime." Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951). It therefore cannot be claimed that the government used at trial any "testimony" of Sweets, whether ex......
  • Murphy v. Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, No. 138
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1964
    ...lead to other evidence that might be so used. Mason v. United States, 244 U.S. 362, 37 S.Ct. 621, 61 L.Ed. 1198; Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118. Because of the importance of testimony, especially in the discovery of ertain crimes for which evidence would......
  • Hain v. Gibson, No. 01-5014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • February 20, 2002
    ...those which would furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant.'" Id. (quoting Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951)). "`[I]t need only be evident from the implications of the question, in the setting in which it is asked......
  • Lile v. McKune, No. 95-3266-DES.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • September 16, 1998
    ...Const. Art. V. The Amendment "must be accorded liberal construction in favor of the right it was intended to secure," Hoffman v. U.S., 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951), and it clearly extends to incarcerated prisoners, Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 96 S.Ct. 1551, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1648 cases
  • U.S. v. Sweets, No. 06-4008.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • July 3, 2007
    ...act did not "furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant for a federal crime." Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951). It therefore cannot be claimed that the government used at trial any "testimony" of Sweets, whether ex......
  • Murphy v. Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, No. 138
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1964
    ...lead to other evidence that might be so used. Mason v. United States, 244 U.S. 362, 37 S.Ct. 621, 61 L.Ed. 1198; Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118. Because of the importance of testimony, especially in the discovery of ertain crimes for which evidence would......
  • Hain v. Gibson, No. 01-5014.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • February 20, 2002
    ...those which would furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant.'" Id. (quoting Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951)). "`[I]t need only be evident from the implications of the question, in the setting in which it is asked......
  • Lile v. McKune, No. 95-3266-DES.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • September 16, 1998
    ...Const. Art. V. The Amendment "must be accorded liberal construction in favor of the right it was intended to secure," Hoffman v. U.S., 341 U.S. 479, 486, 71 S.Ct. 814, 95 L.Ed. 1118 (1951), and it clearly extends to incarcerated prisoners, Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 96 S.Ct. 1551, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • The Unconstitutionality of Protective Orders Under the Texas Family Code – Part II
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • February 1, 2022
    ...by the statute itself do not have to entirely encompass a criminal offense to be protected by the Fifth Amendment. See Hoffman v. U.S., 341 U.S. 479 (1951). The Fifth Amendment Privilege protects answers which would furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute. Assault is def......
4 books & journal articles
  • TAX VIOLATIONS
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...danger of incrimination’” (quoting United States v. Neff, 615 F.2d 1235, 1239 (9th Cir. 1980))). 214. See Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486–87 (1951) (“To sustain [the Fifth Amendment Privilege], it need only be evident from the implications of the question, in the setting in whic......
  • Two Rights Collide: Determining When Attorney-Client Privilege Should Yield to a Defendant’s Right to Compulsory Process or Confrontation
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-2, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...inadvertently overheard by the defendant, see United States v. Rainone, 32 F.3d 1203, 1207 (7th Cir. 1994). 247. Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486 (1951) (“The [privilege against self-incrimination] not only extends to answers that would in themselves support a conviction under a ......
  • PLEADING THE FIFTH IN IMMIGRATION COURT: A REGULATORY PROPOSAL.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 98 Nbr. 5, June 2021
    • June 1, 2021
    ...U.S. at 318 (emphasis added). (69.) ABA Treatise, supra note 48, at 79 (citing Baxter, 425 U.S. at 318). (70.) Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486 (71.) Id. (72.) ABA Treatise, supra note 48, at 28. (73.) See supra Part I.A.3.a. (74.) Id. (75.) United States v. Balsys, 524 U.S. 666,......
  • iPHONE X: UNLOCKING THE SELF INCRIMINATION CLAUSE OF THE FIFTH AMENDMENT.
    • United States
    • Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal Vol. 45 Nbr. 1, March 2019
    • March 22, 2019
    ...Can a Password Save Your Cell Phone from a Search Incident to Arrest?, 96 IOWA L. REV. 1125, 1168 (2011)(citing Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486 (1951)). (114) Ronald Allen & M. Kristin Mace, The Self-incrimination Clause Explained and Its Future Predicted, 94 J. CRIM. L. &am......

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