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Brogan v. United States


The defendant falsely answered “No,” when federal agents asked him whether he had received any cash or gifts from a company whose employees were represented by the union in which he was an officer. He was indicted on federal bribery charges and for making a false statement within the jurisdiction of a federal agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (false statements).


Whether the defendant has the right to assert a false defense?


No. Defendants have a constitutional right to remain silent during investigations, but no right to lie.


Although many Court of Appeals decisions had embraced the “exculpatory no” doctrine, the Court held that it is not supported by § 1001’s plain language. By its terms, § 1001 covers “any” false statement including the use of the word “no” in response to a question. The defendant’s argument that § 1001 does not criminalize simple denials of guilt proceeded from two mistaken premises: that the statute criminalizes only those statements that “pervert governmental functions,” and that simple denials of guilt do not do so. The Fifth Amendment confers a privilege to remain silent. It does not confer a privilege to lie.


522 U.S. 398, 118 S. Ct. 805 (1998)

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