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Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment addresses the right to a grand jury for serious federal criminal charges, protection against double jeopardy, the right against self-incrimination, the right to due process, and the takings clause.

1784N.H. Constitution Adds First Double Jeopardy Clause

The New Hampshire Constitution adopts a bill of rights that includes the new nation’s first double jeopardy clause, stating: “No subject shall be liable to be tried, after an acquittal, for the same crime or offence (sic).”

1789Fifth Amendment Proposed

James Madison proposes his amendments to the Constitution, which will become known as the Bill of Rights. He includes a constitutional provision that an individual shall not “be compelled to be a witness against himself.” Congress adds the words “in any criminal case,” meaning that the provision, which will become known as “taking the Fifth,” will be allowed only in criminal trials, not civil ones. This will become one of the Fifth Amendment’s clauses providing safeguards against abuse of criminal laws.

1791Fifth Amendment Ratified

The Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment, is ratified. The amendment contains several clauses that provide protection against governmental abuse of criminal law. Another clause says that no one “shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The amendment protects individuals by limiting government’s power of eminent domain under which it can confiscate private property.

1791Bill Of Rights Ratified

By Dec. 15, three-fourths of the states ratify the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The amendments are meant to secure individual liberties and to maintain the balance of power between the federal government and the states. The 10th Amendment states that powers not delegated to the federal government belong to the states. Although not specified in the 10th Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in years to come that laws affecting family relations, commerce within a state’s borders, and local law enforcement fall within state authority.

1856Seizure Of Property Without Full Hearing Allowed

The federal government seizes property from a man who owes it money. He argues that the lack of a hearing violates his Fifth Amendment right to due process. The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co. that different processes may be legitimate in different circumstances.

To determine the constitutionality of a procedure, the Court looks at whether it violates specific safeguards in the Constitution and whether similar types of proceedings had been used historically, particularly in England. In this case, because a summary method for the recovery of debts had been used in England, the procedure is constitutional in the U.S.

1875Government Can Take Over Private Property For Its Use

In Kohl v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the federal government’s takeover of land in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a U.S. Post Office and the eviction of the tenants. The Court rules that the ability of the government to exercise its eminent domain power in the Fifth Amendment is essential to its ability to fulfill all of its duties to the public, and this important goal outweighs any inconvenience to individuals living on the land. The Court also finds that the amount of the tenants’ compensation (to reimburse them for the government’s “taking”) should be determined by the federal court.

18892nd Trial For Same Conduct Violates Double Jeopardy Clause

In In re Nielson, the U.S. Supreme Court rules the double jeopardy clause is violated by the attempted prosecution of a defendant for adultery when he already had been convicted of unlawful cohabitation. Because the cohabitation conviction meant the defendant had been found guilty of living with a woman to whom he was not married, the adultery offense was included in that conviction and could not be the basis for a new criminal charge. The defendant, a Mormon, was charged with these crimes because he lived with multiple wives.

1896Government Project Does Not Have To Benefit All Members Of Society To Be A Public Use

In Fallbrook Irrigation District v. Bradley, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a California law that imposed a tax on all landowners to pay for irrigation of drier land in the state. In deciding that the law does not violate property owners’ due process rights, the Court notes that the irrigation project qualifies as a “public use” – even if only certain landowners will benefit – because it helps the state’s economy as a whole. Notably, this case is decided before the takings clause is extended to the states and thus relies on the 14th Amendment’s due process clause rather than the Fifth Amendment. Nevertheless, the Court’s decision on what is a public purpose has been applied in other Fifth Amendment cases.

1897Court: Not Every Public Use Requires ‘Just Compensation’

In Chicago B. & Q. R.R. v. Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a city’s decision to build a public road across some railroad tracks – which requires the railroad to incur the cost of “erecting gates, planking the crossing and maintaining flagmen, in order that [the] road may be safely operated” – is not a “taking” that requires the city to pay “just compensation” to the railroad company. The Court rules that the railroad gains much from the privilege of running through the city, and that the cost of public roads being built on or near its tracks is a necessary cost of doing business.

1898No Absolute Rule For How To Calculate ‘Just Compensation’

In Backus v. Fort Street Union Depot Co., the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a lower court’s decision that reduced a manufacturing plant owner’s compensation when the street in front of the plant was condemned for use by a railroad. The Court rules that the measure of damages was fairly set by a jury that was instructed to award “full and adequate compensation, not excessive or exorbitant, but just compensation.” The Court refuses to set an absolute formula for calculating “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment: “All that is essential is that in some appropriate way, before some properly constituted tribunal, inquiry shall be made as to the amount of compensation, and when this has been provided there is that due process of law which is required by the Federal Constitution.”

1922Hearing Required Before Deportation

In Ng Fung Ho v. White, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment due process clause requires the government to hold a hearing before deporting a U.S. resident who claims to be a citizen, arguing that otherwise the person is deprived of liberty, and possibly in danger of losing property and life.

1922Conviction In Both Federal And State Court Not Double Jeopardy

A defendant who had been convicted in state court objects to having to stand trial in federal court for the same crime. In United States v. Lanza, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the double jeopardy clause was not violated because the state and federal legal systems are different government “units,” and that each can determine what shall be an offense against its peace and dignity.

1922Law Requiring Mining Firms To Pay For Damage After Sale Struck Down

Coal mining companies that were primarily interested in the coal beneath the land’s surface often sold the land above the mines – but only the surface rights. Sometimes, the surface buyers would specify in their contracts with the mining companies that special supports had to be installed in the mines when the coal was removed to prevent cave-ins – but not always, because it cost less to buy the surface rights without requiring the companies to guarantee support. Over the years, towns were built above coal mines. In 1921, in response to a growing problem of cave-ins above unsupported mines, the state of Pennsylvania passed the Kohler Act to protect the public from these accidents. In this case, surface owners sued under the Kohler Act, asking that all mining beneath their property be stopped. In Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Kohler Act violates the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Court finds that the surface owners knew that they had only limited rights to the property when they bought the land and that they must absorb the risk and the cost of any repairs, unless the contract specifies that the coal company is liable for damages.

1924Right Against Self-Incrimination Applies In Some Civil Cases

In McCarthy v. Arndstein, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a debtor testifying at his own bankruptcy hearing is allowed to refuse to answer questions because his answers might incriminate him. The Court holds that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination applies to defendants in civil cases, not just criminal defendants, when criminal prosecution might result from the disclosure.

1937Double Jeopardy Clause Does Not Apply To States

In Palko v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that double jeopardy protections do not extend to defendants in state criminal trials. The Court says that while some fundamental rights, such as free speech, apply to states through the 14th Amendment, double jeopardy protection is not one.

1943Restrictions On Japanese Americans Upheld

In Hirabayashi v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court says a federal law passed after Pearl Harbor that requires Japanese Americans to live in restricted areas and obey curfews does not violate their Fifth Amendment right to due process. The case revolves around the conviction of Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, a Japanese American college student, who had refused to register for relocation and had violated a curfew. The Court does not address the relocation issue and instead focuses on the curfew, which it deems a necessary “protective measure.”

1944Price-Control Law In Wartime Upheld

In Yakus v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the Emergency Price Control Act, which Congress passed during World War II to battle inflation. The law established an Office of Price Administration, which had the power to limit the prices of certain goods. A seller could challenge a price as too low within 60 days of its determination and could appeal any adverse ruling to an emergency Court of Appeals. The Court rules that this procedure meets the Fifth Amendment’s due process standard because the 60-day challenge period and the appeals procedure provide safeguards against unfair decisions.

1944Organizations Do Not Have Right Against Self-Incrimination

In United States v. White, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a labor union under criminal investigation cannot refuse to turn over its records on the grounds of self-incrimination, explaining that the Bill of Rights was enacted to protect individuals, not organizations, from the government.

1946Congress Can Define Amount Of Land Needed For Public Use

In United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress has the authority to define how much private land needs to be “taken” to achieve a particular public use. In Welch, a dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created a reservoir that flooded the only public highway serving the area’s residents. After consulting with state and local officials, the TVA decided that instead of paying to build a new road, it would take over the whole surrounding area for a park and relocate the few local residents. The Court rules that Congress has authorized the TVA to take whatever steps are necessary to carry out its projects, such as the dam, and taking private property here serves that “public use” in a constitutional manner.

1948Secret Trials Violate Due Process Right

In In re Oliver, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the conviction of a Michigan man who was convicted and sentenced during a secret grand jury hearing before a single judge. The hearing had occurred under a Michigan law allowing a single judge to hold secret grand jury proceedings. The Court does not rule on the law because it was not challenged by the defendant. Grand jury proceedings, held to decide whether to issue an indictment (confirming enough evidence exists to take a case to full trial), traditionally are conducted in private. In this case, the one-man grand jury went further when the judge also decided the defendant’s guilt and sentenced him to jail.

1951Right Against Self-Incrimination Broadened

In Hoffman v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a witness has the Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify not only when the testimony alone might support a criminal conviction, but also when the witness has a reasonable fear that the testimony might assist the government in building a criminal case against the witness – such as by providing a link in the chain of evidence needed for prosecution.

1955No ‘Magic Words’ Needed To Trigger 5th Amendment Privilege

In Emspak v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee who refused to answer certain questions about his affiliation with the Communist Party is protected by the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination. The Court says the witness should not have been convicted and fined for contempt. The Court holds that for a witness to be allowed not to answer a question on Fifth Amendment grounds, he need not say any particular phrase: “All that is necessary is an objection stated in language that a committee may reasonably be expected to understand as an attempt to invoke the privilege.”

1958Multiple Sentences Allowed For Multiple Convictions

In Gore v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that it is constitutional for a defendant convicted of multiple crimes arising from a single act to be sentenced to serve multiple prison terms. In this case, the defendant was convicted of three different crimes arising out of drug sales made on two consecutive days. For the crimes committed on the first day, the defendant was given three sentences to be served consecutively. The three sentences for the same crimes committed on the second day would be considered to be served concurrently.

1959Ability To Practice Chosen Profession Cannot Be Taken Away Without Due Process

In Greene v. McElroy, the U.S. Supreme Court looks at whether the due process clause was violated when the federal government took away an aeronautical engineer’s security clearance without a hearing. The clearance was taken away because of suspicions that the engineer’s ex-wife had been associated with members of the Communist Party. Although employed by a private company, the engineer worked on projects for the federal government and had access to classified information. The zvourt says that because loss of his clearance deprives the engineer of his right to practice his chosen profession, the due process clause requires a full hearing where the engineer could confront and cross-examine witnesses against him.

1960Court Expands Property For Which Government Must Pay ‘Just Compensation’

In Armstrong v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause applies not only to land and real estate but also to more intangible property, such as financial interests. In Armstrong, a company building ships for the government did not complete its contract. The company turned over to the government the partially completed ships and the remaining building materials so the government could finish the job. A second company, the supplier of the materials, complained that the shipbuilding company never had paid it and that the government would be “taking” the supplier’s property unless it paid the amount that was owed. The Court agrees.

1961Government Employment Can Be Denied Without Hearing

In Cafeteria and Restaurant Workers Union v. McElroy, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a military commander did not violate the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause when he decided, without a hearing, to indefinitely ban a cafeteria worker from entering the government building where she worked. The commander’s decision was based on his conclusion that the cook did not meet security requirements.

Despite the similarity to Greene v. McElroy, 1959, the Court says here that the military commander was acting within the wide authority given to him by Congress to ensure the safety of government buildings. The private employer in Greene had no such mandate, the Court says, and therefore could not take away an employee’s ability to practice his chosen profession without a due process hearing.

1964State Defendants Also Have Self-Incrimination Privilege

In Malloy v. Hogan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination, which historically applies only to witnesses in federal trials, also protects individuals testifying in state court.

1965Prosecutor Cannot Comment On Defendant’s Silence

In Griffin v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination not only allows a criminal defendant to refuse to take the witness stand during his trial, but it also bars the prosecutor from urging the jury to interpret that silence as an indication that the defendant has something to hide. The Court reasons that the right against self-incrimination would be meaningless if a defendant’s exercise of the right could be used against him.

1966Due Process Rights For Juvenile Offenders Upheld

In Kent v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that juvenile offenders are entitled to a full hearing before their criminal case can be transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult justice system. In so doing, the Court recognizes that juveniles accused of a crime need as many procedural protections in the justice system as adults do. The Court reaffirms this idea two years later, in another case involving the due process rights of a juvenile facing a sentence in a detention facility.

1966Loyalty Oath Is Struck Down

In Elfbrandt v. Russell, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates an Arizona law requiring state employees to take a loyalty oath. Anyone who took the oath and then became a member of the Communist Party or any other group that advocated the violent overthrow of the government could be prosecuted for perjury and fired. The Court says the law violates the due process clause by infringing on the right of free association. The Court holds that the law is too broad by punishing a person who joins a group that has both legal and illegal purposes but does not subscribe to the illegal purpose.

1966‘You Have The Right To Remain Silent…’

In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is not limited to in-court testimony, but also applies when a person is taken into police custody for questioning. The Court also rules that criminal suspects must be told of their Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. Once a person “indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated,” the police must stop asking questions – even if the person has answered questions up to that point, the Court says.

These mandatory statements by police have become known as Miranda rights or Miranda warning, and the process of informing a person of these rights has become known as Mirandizing.

1966Self-Incrimination Privilege Applies Only To Testimony

In Schmerber v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment does not prevent a court from admitting evidence of a drunken-driving defendant’s blood test showing an illegal blood alcohol level. The Court explains that because the blood test results are not “testimony nor evidence relating to some communicative act or writing” by the defendant, the use of those results at trial does not violate his right against self-incrimination.

1967Court Holds Juveniles Entitled To Due Process

The U.S. Supreme Court decides In re Gault, holding that juveniles possess the standard constitutional guarantees of due process. Previously, the juvenile justice system withheld constitutional protections routinely afforded adults. The Court finds that juvenile proceedings must be in line with the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

1968Tax Law Found To Compel Self-Incrimination Struck Down

In Marchetti v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a tax law that requires people in the betting industry to post documentation confirming their payment of a certain “occupational tax.” The Court rules that the law compels people who have not paid the tax to give incriminating information against themselves, and therefore violates the Fifth Amendment.

1968Defendants Cannot Be Forced To Choose Between Rights

In Simmons v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that when a criminal defendant chooses to testify at a pretrial hearing about certain evidence (which the defendant alleges was gathered by police in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure provision), that testimony – even if it is incriminating – cannot later be used against the defendant at trial. Otherwise, the court states, a defendant will be forced to choose between exercising his Fourth Amendment right (to try to suppress illegally obtained evidence) or his Fifth Amendment right (to refuse to give testimony against himself).

1969Double Jeopardy Applies To State Trials

In Benton v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the double jeopardy clause represents a fundamental ideal of “our constitutional heritage,” and extends double jeopardy protection to defendants in state court trials. The justices also cite the 14th Amendment’s prohibition on state governments limiting liberty without due process. Double jeopardy, the Court rules, violates the due process rights of the accused.

1975Exclusion Of Noncitizens From Federal Jobs Struck Down

In Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a Civil Service Commission rule that barred noncitizens, including resident aliens (foreigners who live here), from holding civil service jobs violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Although recognizing that national interests may justify a citizenship requirement for certain jobs, the Court finds that the Civil Service Commission does not have the authority to deprive an entire class of individuals – resident aliens – from making a living. The Court relies in part on earlier decisions that found that state rules depriving resident aliens from working for state government violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

1975Double Jeopardy Protections For Juveniles Announced

In the case Breed v. Jones, the U.S. Supreme Court finds that once juveniles are an “adjudicated delinquent” in juvenile court – the equivalent of being found guilty of violating a criminal statute – they cannot then be tried for the same crime in adult criminal court, even if the juvenile court has not yet imposed a sentence. To do so, the Court says, would violate the constitutional protection against “double jeopardy.”

1975‘Duration Of Relationship’ Rule Held Constitutional

After her husband of less than six months died, a woman sought Social Security insurance benefits for herself and her daughter by a previous marriage. The Social Security Administration denied the request on the basis of a duration-of-relationship requirement in the law, which required that a “widow” and “child” have a relationship with the wage earner for more than nine months before his death. They sued, claiming that the rule violated their rights under the Fifth Amendment. In Weinberger v. Salfi, the U.S. Supreme Court finds that the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment are applicable to the federal government here through the Fifth Amendment, but that social welfare legislation like this is constitutional if Congress acted rationally and there was no arbitrary or invidious discrimination. Here, the duration-of-relationship rule made sense to avoid potentially fraudulent claims.

1976Court Hearing Not Required Before Cutting Off Disability Benefits

George Eldridge, who had been deemed disabled because of chronic anxiety and back strain, was informed by the Social Security Administration that his benefits would end. Although Social Security procedures provided for a hearing before a final determination, Eldridge’s benefits were cut off before the hearing. He sued, and in Mathews v. Eldridge, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the termination of benefits before a hearing does not violate the Fifth Amendment. The Court notes that due process is “flexible” and calls for “such procedural protections as the particular situation demands.” The court finds there are numerous safeguards to prevent errors in making decisions to terminate disability benefits and argued that “at some point the benefit or an additional safeguard to the individual affected by the administrative action and to society, in terms of increased assurance that the action is just, may be outweighed by the cost.”

1976Court: Social Security Can Treat Divorced Women Differently

In Mathews v. De Castro, the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the Social Security Act, which gives benefits to married women with dependent children when their husbands retire or are disabled but denies the same benefits to divorced women, violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Recognizing that the Fifth Amendment right of due process includes rights to equal protection, the Court says that the Social Security Act’s differing treatment of married and divorced women is constitutional because Congress acted rationally. Specifically, the Court finds that the distinction between married and divorced women is consistent with the law’s primary goal of providing workers and their families with basic protection against hardships due to illness or old age and that Congress did not act irrationally when it decided to defer monthly payments to divorced wives of retired or disabled wage earners until they reach the age of 62 because the law reflected that divorced couples typically live separate lives.

1978Investment’s Lower Value Due To Preservation Law Not A ‘Taking’

In Penn Central v. New York City, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that New York City’s denial of a developer’s request to build above Grand Central Station – which the city had named a historic landmark – is not a “taking” requiring “just compensation.” The Court rules that the limits placed on the developers are not so severe that they had lost all benefit of the station as an investment property. “The restrictions imposed are substantially related to the promotion of the general welfare and not only permit reasonable beneficial use of the landmark site.”

1978Prosecution Gets One Chance At Conviction

In Burks v. United States, the government wants to retry a defendant who won an appeal of his conviction based on insufficient evidence at trial. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a new trial, or a “do-over,” would violate the double jeopardy clause: “The Double Jeopardy Clause forbids a second trial for the purpose of affording the prosecution another opportunity to supply evidence which it failed to muster in the first proceeding.”

19782nd Trial Allowed If Charges Dismissed In Midtrial

In U.S. v. Scott, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that a defendant who won a dismissal of charges against him before a jury issued its verdict can be tried a second time if the prosecution wins an appeal of the dismissal. The Court says double jeopardy protections are not violated if the grounds for dismissal are “not related to factual guilt or innocence.”

1980Windfall Benefits For Only Certain Rail Workers Are Upheld

In U.S. Railroad Retirement Board v. Fritz, the U.S. Supreme Court considers changes in the federal retirement benefits program for railroad employees. Before the changes, railroad employees who worked for a certain number of years were qualified to receive retirement benefits, even if their years of service outside the railroad industry also qualified them to receive Social Security. Congress decided that it was too expensive for the government to pay the workers under both programs, so the 1974 Railroad Retirement Act barred dual payments to some future retirees. The Court rules that Congress’ decision to award the benefits to some workers but not to others is a rational way of phasing out the benefits and, consequently, is not a violation of due process.

1981Court Says Draft Registration May Exempt Women

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Military Selective Service Act, requiring that men ages 18 through 25 register for the draft. In Rostker v. Goldberg, the Court rejects the argument that exempting women from the act violates the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. The Court says the exemption is not the “accidental byproduct of a traditional way of thinking about women.” Women, it holds, are not “similarly situated” for the purposes of draft registration because they are barred from combat roles. The Court says the problems that would be created by drafting women for noncombat roles were sufficient to justify their exemption.

1984Defendant’s Request For New Trial Does Not Trigger Double Jeopardy

In Justices of Boston Municipal Court v. Lydon, the U.S. Supreme Court considers a defendant’s attempt to avoid a new trial under unusual conditions. Massachusetts law allows defendants in certain criminal cases to choose to have their cases heard by a judge or by a jury. If convicted by a judge, the defendant can ask for a new trial in front of a jury. In Lydon, the defendant chose the first option, and the judge convicted him. The defendant then asked for a new trial before a jury. But he also brought a claim in federal court that the double jeopardy clause prohibited the second trial from going forward, because there had not been enough evidence to convict him at the first trial and that the prosecution should not get a second chance (as the Supreme Court ruled in Burks, 1978). The court disagrees, finding that because the defendant is asking for the second trial, not the prosecution, the second trial “does not constitute governmental oppression of the sort against which the Double Jeopardy Clause was intended to protect.”

1987Public Beach Access Rule Rejected As ‘Taking’ Without Compensation

In Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates a California Coastal Commission regulation requiring that when coastal property owners develop their property, they allow a path or other passageway to be added so the public has access to the beach. The Court finds the requirement to be a “taking” of private property by the government without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

1990Multiple Prosecutions Cannot Arise From Single Act If Based On ‘Same Conduct’

In Grady v. Corbin, the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case of a defendant who, while driving drunk, crossed a median and crashed into another car, killing a passenger. The defendant pleaded guilty to drunken driving and crossing the median. Soon after, the district attorney brought different charges – for reckless manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. The Court rules that in addition to the “same elements” test outlined in the 1932 Blockburger case – which prohibits multiple crimes to be charged for a single act, if the crimes require proof of the same elements – the double jeopardy clause also prohibits multiple crimes arising out of a single act that require proof of the “same conduct.” Because proving the defendant in Grady guilty of homicide would require proving that he was guilty of driving drunk and of crossing the median, and because the defendant already had pleaded guilty to both of those charges, the second prosecution violates the double jeopardy clause.

1990Miranda Not Required When Police Are Undercover

In Illinois v. Perkins, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Fifth Amendment’s self-incrimination clause is not violated where a suspect in custody confesses to an undercover police officer posing as a fellow inmate. The Court rules that even though a police officer was doing the questioning, and even though he did not give a Miranda warning to the suspect, no Fifth Amendment violation occurred because the “essential ingredients of a ‘police-dominated atmosphere’ and compulsion are not present when an incarcerated person speaks freely to someone that he believes to be a fellow inmate.”

1992Prosecution For Conspiracy To Commit Crime And For Crime Itself Is Upheld

In U.S. v. Felix, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that it does not violate double jeopardy for a defendant to be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit a crime (in this case, conspiracy to manufacture, possess, and distribute illegal drugs) and for the crime itself (in this case, manufacture and possession of illegal drugs). Although it violates double jeopardy to prosecute a defendant for one crime and for a “lesser included offense” of that crime (such as in Whalen, 1980), the Court says that “a conspiracy to commit a crime is a separate offense from the crime itself.”

Announcing an exception to its 1990 decision in Grady v. Corbin, the Court also rules that it is not a double jeopardy violation for the prosecution in an Oklahoma trial to use some of the “same conduct” that was used against the defendant in prosecuting him for the same charges in a Missouri trial: “[A] mere overlap in proof between two prosecutions does not establish a double jeopardy violation.”

1992Loss Of ‘All Economically Beneficial Uses’ Of Land Equals A ‘Taking’

In Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a South Carolina environmental preservation law barring a property owner from building any houses on his beachfront land is a “taking” by the government requiring that “just compensation” be paid. The Court rules that it is not necessary for a property owner to be “ousted” altogether from the property to be entitled to “just compensation” from the government; a taking also results if the property owner is required to “sacrifice all economically beneficial uses” of it.

1993Court Overrules ‘Same Conduct’ Test

In U.S. v. Dixon, the U.S. Supreme Court overrules its 1990 holding in Grady v. Corbin that the double jeopardy provision prohibits prosecutions for multiple crimes when the “same conduct” by the defendant is the basis for those charges. In Dixon, the Court rules that the 1932 Blockburger decision’s “same elements” test is the only one that matters when deciding whether the double jeopardy clause is violated.

1993Notice And Hearing Required Before Home Is Seized

The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. James Daniel Good Real Property rules that a property owner is entitled to notice and a full hearing before his home and surrounding land can be seized. The Court says that a person’s interest in keeping his home – as opposed to other kinds of property, such as a car or a boat – is an extremely important one, and unless emergency circumstances suggest that the property owner might destroy evidence or that some other immediate harm might result, the due process clause requires the government to take every procedural precaution.

1994Special Marijuana Tax Violates Double Jeopardy Clause

In Department of Revenue v. Kurth Ranch, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the double jeopardy clause prohibits a state from imposing a special tax on individuals who have been convicted of growing marijuana. The Court rules that because the tax is more like punishment than a typical revenue-raising measure – in that it is imposed only on people who have been convicted of growing marijuana and who no longer own the “property” for which they are being taxed because it has been confiscated by police – that it is a second penalty for the same offense. Therefore, the double jeopardy clause does not permit it.

1994Private Property Owners Given Greater Rights

In Dolan v. City of Tigard, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that an Oregon town’s requirement that private property owners dedicate part of any new development on their land to a public bike and pedestrian path and a public “greenway” to help minimize flooding to be a “taking” of private property by the government without compensation. The Court rules that the regulation unconstitutionally takes away property owners’ right to exclude the public from their land, an essential part of property ownership.

2001Innocent Can Invoke 5th Amendment Right

In Ohio v. Reiner, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “protects the innocent as well as the guilty.” Charged with killing his son Alex, Matthew Reiner pleaded not guilty. His defense lawyers accused the baby sitter, Susan Batt, of the crime. Batt was granted immunity after she asserted her innocence and informed the court that she planned to invoke her right against self-incrimination. After the jury convicted Reiner, he appealed to the state’s high court, questioning Batt’s Fifth Amendment right. The state court agreed with Reiner, maintaining that a person waives that right upon declaring herself innocent. An innocent witness, the state court says, cannot incriminate herself and is deprived of Fifth Amendment protection. The U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, saying that for witnesses to invoke their right against self-incrimination, they have to show only that there is “reasonable cause” to believe testifying could put them in legal jeopardy.

2001Court Eases Way For Property Owners To Claim ‘Taking’

In Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, the U.S. Supreme Court reduces the administrative challenges that private landowners face in obtaining a “takings” claim in state and federal courts. The Court says Anthony Palazzolo had the right to challenge development restrictions on his property in court even though they were effective when he bought the land. Palazzolo contended the restrictions were an unconstitutional taking of his land. The Court’s decision boosts private citizens’ property rights.

2002Convicted Sex Offender Can Be Penalized For Not Confessing

In McKune v. Lile, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the state of Kansas can penalize a prisoner who refuses to confess to crimes for which he had been sentenced. Prison officials had ordered the prisoner to participate in the Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, which required the prisoner to admit to the crimes for which he had been sentenced and provide a comprehensive sexual history that could potentially reveal uncharged offenses. If the prisoner failed to participate, prison officials threatened to diminish his privileges and transfer him to a more dangerous maximum-security unit. The prisoner refused, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The justices rule the treatment program does not violate the right against self-incrimination.

2003Death Sentence Imposed After Retrial Not Double Jeopardy

A defendant is convicted of first-degree murder, but the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision whether to sentence the defendant to death or to life in prison. By default, a life sentence is imposed. The defendant appeals his conviction and wins a retrial, but the second jury unanimously hands down a death sentence. In Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that this second verdict does not violate the double jeopardy clause because the first jury’s inability to reach a unanimous verdict means that there was no official finding of the facts regarding what kind of penalty the defendant deserved. As these questions remain open at the time of the second trial, the second jury can look at the facts again.

2004Double Jeopardy Claims Do Not Apply To Tribal Court Cases

In United States v. Lara, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that double jeopardy claims do not apply to Indian tribes since they act as sovereign nations. The defendant, Billy Jo Lara, was convicted in a tribal court of assaulting an officer from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. When the federal government charged him with the same offense, Lara invoked his Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy. However, the Court says that since the tribe that convicted Lara was considered a “separate sovereign,” Lara’s double jeopardy claims were invalid.

2004Citizen ‘Enemy Combatants’ Have Right To Due Process

Petitioner Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen whom the government has classified as an “enemy combatant” for allegedly fighting with the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan, is detained in a Navy brig. Hamdi’s father files a habeas petition on his behalf, arguing that his son is being held in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court says that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged in this case, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be allowed to contest the detention before a neutral party. The Court rejects the Bush administration’s contention that the executive branch has the last word on open-ended detentions for citizens and noncitizens.

2004Federal Courts Can Hear Foreign Detainees’ Appeals

In Rasul v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who contend they are being unlawfully held. The Court finds that the terms of the lease on the naval base give the United States a degree of control that makes the property the functional equivalent of U.S. territory.

2005Court Says Land Can Be Taken For Private Development

In Kelo et al. v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court authorizes local governments to force private citizens to sell their property and shift ownership to private economic developers, if public benefit is likely. The Court says public use can be defined more broadly as public purpose. The ruling is a victory for local governments needing venues for urban revitalization. However, property-rights activists argue that the ruling violates the Fifth Amendment because the forced transfer of ownership is between private individuals and not for public use.

2006General Is Silent In Prisoner Abuse Cases

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, former commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention center who helped set up interrogation practices at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, refuses to testify further about prisoner interrogations, citing his military Article 31 rights, which are similar to the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Miller’s decision to remain silent will affect court-martial proceedings for two soldiers accused of using dogs to terrorize prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He was implicated in a Guantanamo abuse case, but several investigations cleared him of wrongdoing related to the Abu Ghraib scandal.

2006Convictions Of Foreign Nationals Not Told Of Rights Are Upheld

Moises Sanchez-Llamas, a Mexican national, was arrested after a shootout with police in Oregon. Officers did not inform him that he could ask to have the Mexican Consulate notified. According to the Vienna Conventions, any signing country is obligated to inform other treaty members’ consulates if one of their citizens is arrested in that country. During interrogation, Sanchez-Llamas made incriminating statements. Before his trial for attempted murder and other offenses, Sanchez-Llamas moved to suppress those statements because his Vienna Convention rights were violated. The state court denied that motion, and Sanchez-Llamas was convicted and sentenced to prison. The Oregon Court of Appeals, the Oregen Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court all affirmed.

Mario Bustillo, a Honduran national, was arrested and charged with murder in Virginia, but police never informed him that he could ask that the Honduran Consulate be notified. He was convicted and sentenced to prison, and his conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. He filed a habeas petition in state court arguing, for the first time, that authorities had violated his right to consular notification. The court dismissed the claim because he had failed to raise it at trial or on appeal. The Virginia Supreme Court found no reversible error, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed.

2006Ariz. Law Limiting Insanity Plea Does Not Deny Due Process

Eric Michael Clark, a paranoid schizophrenic, was charged with murder after he shot and killed an Arizona police officer. At his trial, Clark tried to use expert testimony to prove that he was insane and that his illness prevented him from forming the intent to shoot an officer. The judge allowed the expert testimony only on his insanity claim. The court then decided Clark had not proved his insanity defense. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In Clark v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s law that does not allow the defendant to argue his illness prevents him from forming criminal intent. The Court says Clark still received due process.

2009Limits Eased On Questioning Suspects

The U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1986 ruling in Michigan v. Jackson that barred police from questioning a suspect once the suspect had requested a lawyer at a court hearing. In Montejo v. Louisiana, the Court eases those restrictions, saying the previous ruling was “unworkable” and allowed some guilty suspects to go free. The dissenting opinion stresses that the Court’s 1986 decision had protected the fundamental right to counsel.

2010Court Refines Miranda Rule

The U.S. Supreme Court in Berghuis v. Thompkins rules that the burden is on suspects to invoke their right to remain silent by saying so. The case concerns a suspect who was read his Miranda rights but refused to sign a form acknowledging that he understood them. He then remained silent for nearly three hours of questioning until giving a one-word answer to a question that was used to convict him. The Court says the suspect waived his right when he made an uncoerced statement to police.

2013Silence Before Miranda Warning May Be Used Against Suspect At Trial

By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court decides in Salinas v. Texas that a suspect’s failure to answer a police officer’s question before he was arrested may be used against the suspect at trial. The case involved Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of the shooting deaths of two brothers. Before his arrest, Salinas agreed to answer police questions but was silent when asked specifically about his shotgun and shells recovered at the scene. At his trial, the prosecutor pointed out Salinas’ silence on the question, saying it showed he was guilty. The Court says that since Salinas agreed to answer questions before he was arrested, he was not entitled to a Miranda warning nor could he invoke his right against self-incrimination.