Constitutional Issues Regarding Self Incrimination

The privilege against self-incrimination is clearly provided in the U.S. Constitution.  US Const. Amend. 5 provides that, no person should be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.  In Ronson v. Commissioner of Correction, 551 F. Supp. 450 (S.D.N.Y. 1982), the court held that the privilege against self-incrimination may be claimed in any proceeding, including administrative proceedings.  However, the privilege against self-incrimination may not be claimed in administrative sanctions that are not criminal or penal in nature[i].  Also, the privilege may not be claimed, when criminal penalties result as a mere incident of an administrative search[ii].  In re Vitamins Antitrust Litig., 120 F. Supp. 2d 58 (D.D.C. 2000), the court held that the U.S. Const. amend. 5 right serves to protect individuals from criminal liability and not from civil liability.

The privilege against self-incrimination may be waived[iii].  The waiver of the privilege against self-incrimination is limited to the proceeding in which it occurs.  Similarly, the waiver of privilege in one proceeding does not affect the right of a witness or accused to invoke the privilege as to the same subject matter in another independent proceeding[iv].

The U.S. Const. Amend. 5 privilege is a personal privilege[v].  It adheres basically to the person and not to information that may incriminate him.  In Murphy v. Waterfront Comm’n of New York Harbor, 378 U.S. 52 (U.S. 1964), the court held that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination has two primary interrelated facets; 1) the Government may not use compulsion to obtain self-incriminating statements and 2) the Government may not permit the use in a criminal trial of self-incriminating statements obtained by compulsion.

[i] Kimm v. Rosenberg, 363 U.S. 405 (U.S. 1960)

[ii] Board of County Comm’rs v. Grant, 264 Kan. 58 (Kan. 1998)

[iii] In re Vitamins Antitrust Litig., 120 F. Supp. 2d 58 (D.D.C. 2000)

[iv] id

[v] Garner v. United States, 501 F.2d 228 (9th Cir. 1974)


Inside Constitutional Issues Regarding Self Incrimination