Fifth Amendment, self-incrimination

Document Type



In 1979, the M/V Ryuyo Maru No. 2, a Japanese fishing vessel, went aground off the coast of Alaska. During the course ofthe United States Coast Guard's investigation into the cause of themarine casualty, the captain of the vessel and several seamen attempted to avoid giving testimony at the Coast Guard inquest onthe ground that their testimony would tend to incriminate the munder the law of Japan. The ensuing litigation' over the extent towhich the fifth amendment protects witnesses from compulsory self-incrimination where the sole threat of criminal prosecution is by a foreign government contributes to a recent line of federalcases addressing the issue.

This article reviews the historical origins of the privilege against self-incrimination in cases of potential foreign prosecution, and examines the adoption in Mishima v. United States of adeveloping two-pronged test for the applicability of the fifth amendment in such cases. The article concludes with a critique ofthe emerging two-pronged standard.



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