Brief Fact Summary. Various records obtained by the government during a search of two offices were admitted into evidence. Questions arose as to whether the search for, seizure of and introduction into evidence of certain records violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. “[T]he search of an individual’s office for business records, their seizure, and subsequent introduction into evidence do not offend the Fifth Amendment’s proscription that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
An investigation of real estate settlement activities was initiated in the Washington, D.C. area by the Bi-County Fraud Unit (the “Fraud Unit”). Andreson (the “Petitioner”) was a sole practitioner specializing in real estate settlements in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Petitioner’s business practices, in connection with lot 13T in Potomac Woods, was investigated by the Fraud Unit. The Fraud Unit’s investigation disclosed that the Petitioner defrauded the buyer in this transaction. The Petitioner made a representation that there were no liens on the property and accordingly title insurance was not needed, when in fact the Petitioner knew there were two outstanding liens. The Fraud Unit learned that the lienholders were threatening to foreclose on their liens, which would have negatively impacted the buyer’s construction on the property. Additionally, the buyer confronted the Petitioner with this information and as an agent of a title insurance company, the Petitioner p
roduced a title insurance policy guaranteeing clear title to the property. This resulted in the Petitioner also defrauding the insurance company by requiring it to pay the outstanding liens.
The Fraud Unit’s investigators felt they had probable cause to believe the Petitioner violated Mayland’s false pretenses statute and applied for warrants to search the Petitioner’s law office and a separate office of a corporation the Petitioner was the sole shareholder of. The warrants specified various documents relating to the Petitioner’s alleged fraudulent actions. The Sixth Judicial Circuit of Montgomery County found there was probable cause and issued the warrants.
Plaintiff was eventually charged with false pretenses for his actions in the above transaction and certain other transactions. Prior to trial, the Petitioner moved to suppress the seized records, and by the end of the hearing, various records were returned to the Petitioner from his law office and the corporation’s office. The trial court ruled the items not returned to the Petitioner did not violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”). The state proved its case at trial in part by the documents seized from the Petitioner. Plaintiff was found guilty upon five counts of false pretenses and three counts of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.
The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed four of the five false pretenses counts because the indictment failed to allege intent to defraud. As to the remaining false pretenses count and the three counts of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary, the Court of Appeals found that the Petitioner’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were no violated. The warrants did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that warrants cannot authorize general searches. Also, the Fifth Amendment was not violated because the Petitioner was not compelled to do anything.
Issue. “[W]hether the introduction into evidence of a person’s business records, seized during a search of his offices, violates the Fifth Amendment’s command that ‘[n]o person.