Criminal Law Keyed to Dressler
Cheek v. United States
The Defendant, an airline pilot, ceased to file tax returns. He claimed an increasing number of withholding allowances and indicated on his W-4 that he was exempt from withholding. In 1983, he attempted unsuccessfully to have the entire amount withheld by his employer refunded to him. The Defendant was eventually charged with six counts of willfully failing to file a tax return and three counts of willfully evading income taxes. At trial, the Defendant testified that he followed the advice of speakers at seminars that the tax system is unconstitutional. Some of the speakers were attorneys who purported to give opinions about the invalidity of the federal income tax laws. The Defendant claimed that he sincerely believed that tax laws were being unconstitutionally enforced, and his actions were therefore lawful. Hence, he argued that he did not willfully fail to file or evade taxes. The District Court informed the jury that an honest but unreasonable belief is not a defense and does not negate willfulness. The jury convicted the Defendant, and he appealed.
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