Malloy v. Hogan: Summary, Decision & Significance

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

Malloy v. Hogan was a landmark case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In this lesson, a summary of the case will be provided along with a discussion of the decision and its significance.

What Was So Important About Malloy v. Hogan?

The case of Malloy v. Hogan was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964. Prior to the Supreme Court hearing this case, Malloy had been found in contempt by a lower court for refusing to answer questions in that court. His defense was that he had invoked his fundamental right to protect himself from self-incrimination. He took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for relief, and what happened there resulted in the overruling of an earlier decision from 1908. It is important to note that while multiple individuals were involved in the proceedings against Malloy, Frank S. Hogan (among others) represented the National District Attorneys' Association.

Case Summary

Malloy's troubles with the criminal justice system didn't start in 1964. Prior to that, he had been convicted of gambling. Trouble arose for Malloy again when he was asked to answer questions in court regarding illegal activity (including gambling) in his area. At the time, Mallloy was serving probation for the gambling conviction. Malloy refused to answer some of the questions, invoking his right against self-incrimination. The court's response was to find him in contempt and place him behind bars.

Malloy was convicted of gambling.

Once behind bars, Malloy filed for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that his fundamental rights were violated. A writ of habeas corpus is an order that a prisoner can file in court demanding that the court provide a valid reason for holding the prisoner. The rights in question were under the Fifth and 14th amendments. The Fifth Amendment grants an individual the right to protect himself from self-incrimination. Simply put, he can decline to answer questions posed by the court to protect himself from providing information that could lead to more charges for himself. The 14th Amendment grants an individual the right to due process of the law and equal protection of the laws.

Malloy claimed that his rights were violated because he was held in contempt for not answering questions in court that would incriminate him. He had information about gambling and other illegal activity in the area. However, by answering some of the questions, he could have caused more trouble for himself.

The U.S. Supreme Court considered a prior case when forming its decision in the Malloy case. The other case was Twining v. New Jersey, which was decided in 1908. In Twining, the U.S. Supreme Court held that individuals have fundamental rights that applied to the states under the 14th Amendment. However, the right against self-incrimination of oneself under the Fifth Amendment did not apply to the states. This held until the Malloy case came along.

The Decision

The specific question brought to the U.S. Supreme Court in Malloy was whether or not an individual's rights against self-incrimination (guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment) are protected by the 14th Amendment. The decision the court handed down was that the 14th Amendment does protect individuals from self-incrimination. Justice Brennan delivered the opinion of the court, which was decided on a 5-4 vote. Thus, the decision of the lower court against Malloy was reversed. Justice Harlan delivered the dissent.

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