UNITED STATES V. EUGE, 444 U. S. 707 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Euge, 444 U.S. 707 (1980)

United States v. Euge

No. 78-1453

Argued November 26, 1979

Decided February 20, 1980

444 U.S. 707


Section 7602 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to summon individuals to "appear," and "to produce such books, papers, records, or other data, and to give such testimony," as may be relevant to a tax investigation. During an investigation of respondent's income tax liability, in an effort to determine whether deposits in certain bank accounts not registered in respondent's name represented income attributable to him, an IRS agent issued a summons requiring respondent to appear and execute handwriting exemplars of the various signatures appearing on the bank signature cards. When respondent refused to comply with the summons, the United States brought suit to enforce it. The District Court held that the summons should be enforced, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the summons authority under § 7602 does not authorize the IRS to compel the execution of handwriting exemplars.

Held: The IRS is empowered to compel handwriting exemplars under its summons authority conferred by § 7602. Pp. 444 U. S. 710-719.

(a) While § 7602's language may not be explicit in authorizing handwriting exemplars, the duty to appear and give testimony has traditionally encompassed a duty to provide some forms of nontestimonial, physical evidence, including handwriting exemplars. By imposing an obligation to produce documents as well as to appear and give testimony, § 7602's language suggests an intention to codify a broad testimonial obligation, including an obligation to provide some physical evidence relevant and material to a tax investigation. From this authority to compel the production of some physical evidence, it can properly be concluded that the authority extends to the execution of handwriting exemplars, one variety of physical evidence. Pp. 444 U. S. 712-714.

(b) This Court has consistently construed congressional intent to require that, if the claimed summons authority is necessary for the effective performance of congressionally imposed responsibilities to enforce the Internal Revenue Code, that authority should be upheld absent express statutory prohibition or substantial countervailing congressional policies. Pp. 444 U. S. 714-716.

Page 444 U. S. 708

(c) The authority claimed here is necessary for the effective exercise of the IRS's enforcement responsibilities. Handwriting exemplars are often an important evidentiary component in establishing liability, the use of such exemplars being an effective method for determining whether a particular name is an alias of a taxpayer. Pp. 444 U. S. 716-717.

(d) Moreover, the authority claimed here is entirely consistent with the statutory language, and is not in derogation of any countervailing policies or any constitutional rights, compulsion of handwriting exemplars being neither a search or seizure subject to Fourth Amendment protections nor testimonial evidence protected by the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Pp. 444 U. S. 717-718.

587 F.2d 25, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 444 U. S. 719. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 444 U. S. 720.

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