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Law School Case Brief

Andresen v. Maryland - 427 U.S. 463, 96 S. Ct. 2737 (1976)


Unless incriminating testimony is "compelled," any invasion of privacy is outside the scope of U.S. Const. amend. V, protection; U.S. Const. amend. V, protects against compelled self-incrimination, not the disclosure of private information.


Petitioner Andresen was an attorney, who, as a sole practitioner, specialized in real estate settlements in Montgomery County. In early 1972, a Bi-County Fraud Unit, acting under the joint auspices of the State's Attorneys' Offices of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Md., began an investigation of real estate settlement activities in the Washington, D.C., area. During the Fraud Unit’s investigation, Andresen's activities came under scrutiny, particularly in connection with a transaction involving Lot 13T in the Potomac Woods subdivision of Montgomery County. The Fraud Unit, acting pursuant to state warrants, conducted simultaneous searches of Andresen's law office and another office he maintained for a corporation of which he was the sole shareholder. In the ensuing search a number of incriminating documents, including some containing statements made by Andresen, were seized. Andresen was later charged, inter alia, with the crime of false pretenses based on a misrepresentation made to the purchaser of Lot 13T that title to the property was clear. At trial in Maryland state court, Andresen's motion to suppress the seized documents was granted as to some documents, but a number of the seized items, including documents pertaining to a lot other than Lot 13T but located in the same subdivision and subject to the same liens as Lot 13T, were admitted into evidence, after being authenticated by prosecution witnesses. A jury found Andresen guilty on five counts of false pretenses and three counts of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. He was sentenced to eight concurrent two-year prison terms. On his appeal, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the conviction, holding that the search warrants were supported by probable cause and did not authorize a general search in violation of U.S. Const. amend. IV, and that the search did not violate Andresen's U.S. Const. amend. V rights because he was not compelled to do anything. Andresen was granted a writ of certiorari.


Did the introduction of Andresen's business records into evidence violate his right against self-incrimination as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment?




The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the Maryland appellate court's judgment. The Court held that the search of Andresen's offices for business records, their seizure, and subsequent introduction into evidence did not offend the Fifth Amendment's proscription that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. Although the records seized contained statements that Andresen voluntarily had committed to writing, he was never required to say anything. The search for and seizure of those records were conducted by law enforcement personnel, and when the records were introduced at trial, they were authenticated by prosecution witnesses, not by Andresen. Therefore, any compulsion of Andresen to speak, other than the inherent psychological pressure to respond at trial to unfavorable evidence, was not present.

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