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Couch v. United States


The defendant turned over various business and tax records to her accountant for several years. The IRS summoned the accountant to bring these records to a court proceeding. The accountant, ignoring the summons, turned the records over to the defendant’s attorney.


Whether a defendant may invoke a Fifth Amendment privilege against selfincrimination to prevent the production of her business and tax records in possession of her accountant?


No. Since the defendant was not in possession of the records, she could not object to the production by her accountant. The defendant was not compelled to do or say anything.


The Fifth Amendment privilege is a personal privilege that adheres to the person and not to the information that may incriminate. A person cannot be compelled to produce information but they cannot prevent the production of incriminating documents that are in the hands of others through the self-incrimination protection.


409 U.S. 322, 93 S. Ct. 611 (1973)

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