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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Aloyzas Balsys was subpoenaed by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) to testify about his wartime activities between 1940 and 1944 and his subsequent immigration to the United States. Fearing prosecution by a foreign nation, Balsys refused the subpoena by claiming his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. On appeal from an appellate court's reversal of a district court ruling granting OSI's subpoena enforcement petition, the Supreme Court granted the United States certiorari.


Is fear of foreign prosecution sufficient grounds to justify the invocation of the Firth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination?

Decision: 7 votes for United States, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Self-Incrimination

No. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Court held that although resident aliens are entitled to the same Fifth Amendment protections as citizen "persons" the risk of their deportation is not sufficient to sustain a self-incrimination privilege intended to apply only to the United States government. The Court explained that since the Fifth Amendment does not bind foreign governments, and that would not be subject to domestic enforcement of immunity-for- testimony deals, one could not assert a self-incrimination protection against possible prosecution at their hands.

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UNITED STATES v. BALSYS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 04 June 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_873>.
UNITED STATES v. BALSYS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_873 (last visited June 4, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. BALSYS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 4, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_873.