United States v. Apfelbaum

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Rincon Island

DOCKET NO.: 78-972
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 445 US 115 (1980)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1979
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1980

Joel Harvey Slomsky - on behalf of the respondent
William C. Bryson - on behalf of the petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Apfelbaum

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1979 in United States v. Apfelbaum

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 03, 1980 in United States v. Apfelbaum

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinions of the Court in three cases, United States against Apfelbaum, Kissinger against Reporters Committee and the consolidated case, and Forsham against Harris, the Secretary of HEW will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

In United States against Apfelbaum, the question is whether a witness granted use immunity under Section 6002 may subsequently be prosecuted for false statements made during the course of his immunized testimony.

Here, respondent Apfelbaum invoked his privilege against compulsory self-incrimination while being questioned before a grand jury in Philadelphia.

The District Judge granted him immunity under the statute and ordered him to testify.

During his testimony, Apfelbaum made statements to serve as the basis for his subsequent indictment and conviction for false swearing.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the conviction because of the District Court admitted into evidence relevant portion of Apfelbaum's grand jury testimony that had not been alleged in the indictment to constitute the corpus delicti or core of the false statements offense.

We disagree with the Court of Appeals' holding.

We hold that neither the statute nor the Fifth Amendment requires that -- an admissibility of immunized testimony be governed by any different rules than other testimony at a trial for making false statements.

Section 6002, the statute explicitly accepts prosecutions for perjury and for making false statements from the scope of its immunity.

The statute makes no distinction between statements alleged as the corpus delicti or core of the offense and other statements made during the giving of immunized testimony.

In the legislative history of the statute shows that Congress intended perjury and false declarations exceptions to be interpreted as broadly as constitutionally permissible.

The Fifth Amendment privilege against self -- compulsory self-incrimination does not limit that statute here because the privilege does not extend to hazards of incrimination that are merely trifling or imaginary.

Rather the hazard must be substantial and real at the time a witness asserts the privilege.

At the time a witness, the respondent assert his Fifth Amendment privilege, he had neither committed the false swearing offense of which he was later convicted nor had he taken any active steps that would suggest he was committed to make the false statements.

Indeed at this point he could have done no more than formulate a future intent to commit perjury.

This hazard is not by itself sufficient to justify invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly reversed.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Mr. Justice Blackmun joined by Mr. Justice Marshall has also filed a separate opinion concurring only in the judgment -- concurring and dissenting.