United States v. Freed

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United States v. Freed by William O. Douglas
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

401 U.S. 601

United States  v.  Freed

 Argued: Jan. 11, 1971. --- Decided: April 5, 1971

Leave to File Petition for Rehearing Denied June 7, 1971.

See 403 U.S. 912, 91 S.Ct. 2201.


In Haynes v. United States, 390 U.S. 85, 88 S.Ct. 722, 19 L.Ed.2d 923, the Court held invalid under the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment provisions of the National Firearms Act, which constituted parts of an interrelated statutory scheme for taxing certain classes of firearms primarily used for unlawful purposes, and made the potentially incriminating information available to state and other officials. To eliminate the defects revealed by Haynes, Congress amended the Act so that only a possessor who lawfully makes, manufactures, or imports firearms can and must register them. The transferor must identify himself, describe the firearm, and give the name and address of the transferee, whose application must be supported by fingerprints and a photograph and a law enforcement official's certificate identifying them as those of the transferee and stating that the weapon is intended for lawful uses. Only after the transferor's receipt of the approved application form may the firearm transfer be legally made. A transferee does not and cannot register, though possession of an unregistered firearm is illegal. No information or evidence furnished under the Act can be used as evidence against a registrant or applicant 'in a criminal proceeding with respect to a violation of law occurring prior to or concurrently with the filing of the application or registration, or the compiling of the records containing the information or evidence,' and no information filed is, as a matter of administration, disclosed to other federal, local, or state agencies. Appellees, who had been indicted under the amended Act for possession and conspiring to possess unregistered hand grenades, filed motions to dismiss, which the District Court granted on the ground that the amended Act, like its predecessor, compels self-incrimination and that the indictment contravenes due process requirements by failing to allege scienter. Appellees also contend that the provisions relating to fingerprints and photographs will cause future incrimination. Held:

1. The revised statutory scheme of the amended Act, which significantly alters the scheme presented in Haynes, does not involve any violation of the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 605-607.

2. The amended Act fully protects a person against incrimination for past or present violations, and creates no substantial hazards of future incrimination. P. 606.

3. The amended Act's prohibition against a person's 'receive(ing) or possess(ing) a firearm which is not registered to him,' requires no specific intent and the absence of such a requirement in this essentially regulatory statute in the area of public safety does not violate due process requirements either as respects the substantive count or the conspiracy count. Pp. 607 610.


Matthew J. Zinn for appellant.

Luke McKissack, Hollywood, Cal., for appellees.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).