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Minnesota Sex Offenders’ Requisite Disclosure in Treatment Can Violate Fifth Amendment

Minnesota Sex Offenders’ Requisite Disclosure in Treatment Can Violate Fifth Amendment

Minnesota state prisoners Frank Johnson and John Henderson individually petitioned for writs of habeas corpus in 2005 after 45 days were added to their sentences for noncompliance with a Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), which required them to admit their guilt.

The state Supreme Court ruled that prisoners with appeals pending or available to them, and those who denied their offense in court proceedings, could not be forced to prejudice their future appeals or to subject themselves to perjury charges, and thus could not be punished for such nondisclosures as part of an SOTP.

Johnson was convicted of assault, criminal sexual conduct and burglary in 2003, and sentenced to four years and ten months. While Johnson’s appeal was pending he refused to participate in the SOTP, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self?incrimination, and refused to admit his guilt. As a result of his noncompliance, the Commissioner of Corrections (Commissioner) added 45 days to his incarceration as punishment. Johnson’s burglary conviction was overturned on appeal in 2004, but his other convictions were affirmed and further review was denied.

Henderson was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in 2002. His appeal and further review were both denied in 2003; his refusal to participate in the SOTP also resulted in a 45-day extension of his incarceration.

As applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
That privilege allows a person to refuse to “answer official questions ... in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings.” Both compulsion and incrimination must be present for the privilege to apply, and the compulsion must present a “risk of incrimination.”

Both Johnson and Henderson sought writs of habeas corpus arguing that their punitive 45?day sentence extensions compelled the waiving of their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In both cases the trial court ruled that it was not compulsion because they had a choice. An appellate court reversed the decision in Johnson’s case, holding the 45-day extension did constitute compulsion, but Henderson’s ruling was affirmed because his time for appeal had expired. Henderson sought review of the affirmation and the Commissioner sought review in Johnson’s case.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held that an extension of incarceration “represents a significant departure” from a prisoner’s sentence, and the prisoner has a “protected liberty interest in his supervised release date that triggers a right to procedural due process before that date can be extended.” The Court determined that compulsion which violates self?incrimination only exists if it poses an “atypical and significant hardship” on prisoners “in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life,” such as an extension of incarceration. Ordinary punishments, such as those that revoke privileges, do not invoke prejudicial compulsion for self?incrimination purposes.

The Court further held that subjecting prisoners to potential perjury charges for past statements they made in court, and self?incrimination for admissions possibly prejudicial to their future appellate proceedings, constituted compulsion for Fifth Amendment purposes. Such actions were therefore precluded, as were any punishments for such constitutionally?based nondisclosures, such as refusal to admit guilt. The ruling in Johnson’s case was affirmed, and Henderson’s was reversed.

The dissent opined that “the basic conditions of the inmate’s sentence should make no difference to a compulsion analysis,” and would have held that “extending an inmate’s supervised release date because of his failure to participate in a sex offender treatment program does not rise to the level of compulsion necessary to violate the inmate’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self?incrimination.” See: Johnson v. Fabian, 735 N.W.2d 295 (Minn. 2007).

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Related legal case

Johnson v. Fabian