Twining v. New Jersey Case Brief

Why is the case important?

New Jersey’s law providing that a jury may draw an unfavorable inference from a criminal defendant’s failure to testify was challenged under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Facts of the case

“Twining, a bank director, was charged with a misdemeanor (deceiving a bank examiner). Twining declined to testify at his trial. Under New Jersey law, the prosecutor commented upon Twining’s failure to testify. A jury convicted Twining

  • he appealed.”

    Question

    Does the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution make the right against self-incrimination applicable to the States?

    Answer

    No, provisions of the Bill of Rights may apply to the states if they are part of the Due Process of Law.

    Conclusion

    The Supreme Court of the United States held that privilege against self-incrimination was not guaranteed by Fourteenth Amendment , U.S. Const. amend. XIV , against impairment by the states. Exemption from self-incrimination was not part of privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. None of the other personal rights enumerated in the first eight Amendments had been considered privileges and immunities. Exemption from self-incrimination was not protected from state action by notions of due process. Examination of the Court’s past cases concerning due process and history of the states in adopting their constitutions led the Court to decide exemption from self-incrimination was not included in conception of due process. The Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, upholding the lower court’s use of jury instructions commenting on the defendants’ failure to testify because exemption from self-incrimination was not a privilege and immunity and was not part of concept of due process and thus could be abridged by the states.

    • Case Brief: 1908
    • Petitioner: Twining
    • Respondent: New Jersey
    • Decided by: Fuller Court

    Citation: 211 US 78 (1908)
    Argued: Mar 19 – 20, 1908
    Decided: Nov 9, 1908