Constitutional Law – Due Process – Privilege Against Self-Incrimination in State Criminal Proceedings
In March 1951, defendant, a New York City policeman, was called to testify before a state grand jury investigating the association of city policemen with the criminal element of Kings County. Existing laws required public officers to execute a waiver of immunity to prosecution for matters to which their testimony related, on pain of losing their positions. The defendant signed such a waiver, and shortly thereafter resigned from the police force. He was called before the same grand jury again in December 1952, and on this occasion was asked whether he had ever accepted bribes while a policeman. He refused to answer, claiming a federal and state constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. When he persisted in his refusal after a judicial determination of the continuing validity of his waiver, he was convicted of criminal contempt. This was affirmed by the state appellate courts. On appeal to the United States Supreme Court, held, affirmed. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Warren and Justice Clark reserved questions of law that might arise if the defendant were to be subjected to further questioning by the grand jury. Justices Black and Douglas dissented on the ground that the conviction was a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Regan v. New York, 349 U.S. 58, 75 S.Ct. 585 (1955).