Jaben v. United States,
381 U.S. 214 (1965)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jaben v. United States, 381 U.S. 214 (1965)

Jaben v. United States

No. 347

Argued March 9, 1965

Decided May 17, 1965

381 U.S. 214


The day before the six-year limitation period for a willful attempt to evade federal income taxes would have expired, the Government filed a complaint with a Commissioner charging petitioner with that offense. Section 6531 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 provides for an extension of the limitation period for nine months from the filing of a complaint. The complainant, an Internal Revenue Service Agent, swore that he had investigated petitioner's liability for the taxable year by examining petitioner's returns, by interviewing persons with whom petitioner did business and those familiar with his financial condition, and by consulting records reflecting petitioner's income, and that, based on such investigation, the complainant had personal knowledge of petitioner's willful attempt to evade his taxes by understating his income in the amount stated. The Commissioner determined that the complaint showed probable cause for believing that petitioner had committed the offense, and issued a summons for him to appear at a preliminary hearing, which was not held, the complaint having been superseded over a month later by an indictment with a count applicable to the offense charged in the complaint. Petitioner moved to dismiss that count as insufficient because it did not show probable cause for believing that he had committed the offense, a claim which both the trial court and the Court of Appeals rejected.


1. To initiate the time extension authorized by § 6531, it is not enough that the complaint state the essential facts of the offense of willful attempted tax evasion, but the complaint must show that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed that offense; and all the other steps of the complaint procedure provided by Rules 3, 4 and 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure must be satisfied. Pp. 381 U. S. 217-221.

(a) The Commissioner's basic functions under the Rules are not just to receive a complaint such as the one here which states the essential facts of the offense, but to determine that probable cause exists, and to warn the defendant of his rights. Pp. 381 U. S. 217-219.

Page 381 U. S. 215

(b) The purpose of the extension provision of § 6531 here involved is not to extend the limitation period so that the Government can develop its case, but to afford the Government an opportunity to indict a criminal tax offender as to whom its case is already made in the event a grand jury is not in session at the end of the normal limitation period. Pp. 381 U. S. 219-220.

(c) The defendant must be afforded a preliminary hearing unless, as here, a superseding indictment is obtained prior thereto. Pp. 381 U. S. 220-221.

2. The complaint filed by an Internal Revenue Service Agent upon the basis of his investigation and containing his sworn statement of personal knowledge derived therefrom of petitioner's income afforded probable cause for believing that petitioner had committed the offense charged. Giordenello v. United States, 357 U. S. 480, distinguished. Pp. 381 U. S. 221-225.

3. The challenged count of the indictment was not barred by the statute of limitations. P. 381 U. S. 225.

333 F.2d 535 affirmed.

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