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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Washington, 431 U.S. 181 (1977)

United States v. Washington

No. 74-1106

Argued December 6, 1976

Decided May 23, 1977

431 U.S. 181


Respondent, who was suspected, with others, of possible implication in a theft, was subpoenaed to appear as a witness before the District of Columbia grand jury investigating the crime. The prosecutor did not advise respondent before his appearance that he might be indicted for the theft, but respondent was given a series of warnings after being sworn, including the warning that he had a right to remain silent. Respondent nevertheless testified, and subsequently was indicted for the theft. The trial court granted respondent's motion to suppress his grand jury testimony and to quash the indictment on the ground that it was based on evidence obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the suppression order, holding that "the most significant failing of the prosecutor was in not advising [respondent] that he was a potential defendant" and that

"[a]nother shortcoming was in the prosecutor's waiting until after administering the oath in the cloister of the grand jury before undertaking to furnish what advice was given."

Held: Respondent's grand jury testimony may properly be used against him in a subsequent trial. The comprehensive warnings he received, whether or not such warnings were constitutionally required, dissipated any element of compulsion to self-incrimination that might otherwise have been present. The fact that a subpoenaed grand jury witness is a putative or potential defendant neither impairs nor enlarges his constitutional rights, and hence it is unnecessary to give such a defendant the warnings that the Court of Appeals held were required. Pp. 431 U. S. 186-190.

328 A.2d 98, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 431 U. S. 191.

Page 431 U. S. 182

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