Haynes v. United States - 390 U.S. 85 (1968)


U.S. Supreme Court

Haynes v. United States, 390 U.S. 85 (1968)

Haynes v. United States

No. 236

Argued October 11, 1967

Decided January 29, 1968

390 U.S. 85

Syllabus

Petitioner was charged by information with violating 26 U.S.C. § 5851 (part of the National Firearms Act, an interrelated statutory system for the taxation of certain classes of firearms used principally by persons engaged in unlawful activities) by knowingly possessing a defined firearm which had not been registered as required by 26 U.S.C. § 5841. Section 5841 obligates the possessor of a defined firearm to register the weapon, unless he made it or acquired it by transfer or importation, and the Act's requirements as to transfers, makings and importations "were complied with." Section 5851 declares unlawful the possession of such firearm which has "at any time" been transferred or made in violation of the Act, or which "has not been registered as required by section 5841." Additionally, § 5851 provides that "possession shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction, unless the defendant explains such possession to the satisfaction of the jury." Petitioner moved before trial to dismiss the charge, sufficiently asserting that § 5851 violated his privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. The motion was denied, petitioner pleaded guilty, and his conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Held:

1. Congress, subject to constitutional limitations, has authority to regulate the manufacture, transfer, and possession of firearms, and may tax unlawful activities. Pp. 390 U. S. 90, 390 U. S. 98.

2. Petitioner's conviction under § 5851 for possession of an unregistered firearm is not properly distinguishable from a conviction under § 5841 for failure to register possession of a firearm, and both offenses must be deemed subject to any constitutional deficiencies arising under the Fifth Amendment from the obligation to register. Pp. 390 U. S. 90-95.

3. A proper claim of the privilege against self-incrimination provides a full defense to prosecutions either for failure to register under § 5841 or for possession of an unregistered firearm under § 5851. Pp. 390 U. S. 95-100.

4. Restrictions upon the use by federal and state authorities of information obtained as a consequence of the registration requirement,

Page 390 U. S. 86

suggested by the Government, is not appropriate. Marchetti v. United States, ante, p. 390 U. S. 39, and Grosso v. United States, ante, p. 390 U. S. 62. Pp. 390 U. S. 99-100.

5. Since any proceeding in the District Court upon a remand must inevitably result in the reversal of petitioner's conviction, it would be neither just nor appropriate to require such needless action, and accordingly the judgment is reversed. Pp. 390 U. S. 100-101.

372 F.2d 651, reversed.



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