Luce v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Petitioner was indicted on charges of conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in violation of a federal statute. During his trial, Petitioner moved to preclude the Government from using a previous State conviction to impeach him if he testified, even though the petitioner never made a commitment to testify and never proffered to the court what his testimony would be. After the Court of Appeals refused to consider the petitioner’s contentions., the court granted certiorari and determined it would be a matter of conjecture as to whether the District Court would have allowed the government to attack the credibility of the petitioner at trial by means of the prior conviction.

Facts of the case


Is the defendant, who did not testify at trial, entitled to review of the trial court’s ruling that denied his motion to forbid the use of a prior conviction to impeach his credibility?


To raise and preserve for review the claim of improper impeachment with a prior conviction, a defendant must testify. When the defendant does not testify, the reviewing court also has no way of knowing whether the Government would have sought to impeach with the prior conviction.



  • Case Brief: 1984
  • Petitioner: Luce
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 469 US 38 (1984)
Argued: Oct 3, 1984
Decided: Dec 10, 1984