Constitutional Law – Privilege Against Self-Incrimination -Effect of Immunity Statute
Petitioner was brought before a federal grand jury and questioned as to his and other persons’ membership in the Communist Party. After petitioner refused to answer the questions on the ground that the answers would be self-incriminating and therefore his refusal was privileged under the Fifth Amendment, the United States attorney, proceeding under the provisions of the Immunity Act of 1954, filed an application in the United States district court requesting that petitioner be required to answer the questions. The district court, upholding the constitutionality of the act, ordered petitioner to answer the questions, and petitioner’s appeal from this order was dismissed by the court of appeals. Upon petitioner’s stipulated refusal to answer the questions, the district court held him in contempt and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment unless he should purge himself of the contempt. The court of appeals affirmed. On certiorari to the Supreme Court, held, affirmed, two justices dissenting. The intent of the Fifth Amendment was to prevent the government from forcing a person to testify to matters which would make him liable for criminal prosecution. Once the threat of criminal prosecution is removed, the purpose of the amendment has been served and the witness has no right to refuse to testify. Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422 (1956).