skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 78173 Find in a Library
Title: Incredible Dilemmas - Conditioning One Constitutional Right on the Forfeiture of Another
Journal: Iowa Law Review  Volume:66  Issue:4  Dated:(May 1981)  Pages:741-775
Author(s): P Westen
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 35
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article explores the constitutional rights ramifications of the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in Simmons v. United States (1968); defects in the holding are emphasized.
Abstract: In the Simmons case, the defendant was indicted for bank robbery based on evidence seized without a warrant from a suitcase located in the house of a friend's mother. In order to establish his standing at trial to suppress the fruits of the search on fourth amendment grounds, the defendant testified out of the jury's presence that the suitcase belonged to him. The motion to suppress the suitcase and its contents was denied, and the defendant's admission of ownership was introduced into evidence. The defendant appealed his subsequent conviction, arguing that the trial judge had forced him to forfeit his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination in return for the opportunity to assert fourth amendment rights. The Supreme Court agreed that the Simmons defendant had been placed in an incredible dilemma of choosing between constitutional rights. However, success of the Court's Simmons argument has been mixed. When the Court is unwilling to allow one constitutional right to be conditioned on the surrender of another, it invokes Simmons. But when the court is willing to allow constitutional rights to be so conditioned, it dismisses Simmons with the observation that difficult choices must frequently be made in legal situations, as in the case of McGautha v. California (1971). While Simmons appears to deal with a unique and difficult constitutional problem, it really concerns nothing more than a set of commonplace constitutional conditions. Thus, the decision causes confusion whenever it is employed. The article suggests that Simmons will remain a convenient precedent because of its convincing rhetoric. Nevertheless, in invoking the language of that decision, lawyers should remember that the existence of incredible dilemmas is a basis for initiating constitutional inquiry, not a reason for foreclosing it. The article provides 104 footnotes, and an appendix which discusses Simmons and third person defense witness immunity.
Index Term(s): Defendants; Judicial decisions; Right against self incrimination; Right of privacy; Search and seizure laws; US Supreme Court
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.