Oregon v. Elstad
Annotate this Case
470 U.S. 298 (1985)
U.S. Supreme Court
Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985)
Oregon v. Elstad
Argued October 3, 1984
Decided March 4, 1985
470 U.S. 298
When officers of the Polk County, Ore., Sheriff's Office picked up respondent at his home as a suspect in a burglary, he made an incriminating statement without having been given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. After he was taken to the station house, and after he was advised of and waived his Miranda rights, respondent executed a written confession. In respondent's subsequent prosecution for burglary, the state trial court excluded from evidence his first statement because he had not been given Miranda warnings, but admitted the written confession. Respondent was convicted, but the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the confession should also have been excluded. The court concluded that, because of the brief period separating respondent's initial, unconstitutionally obtained statement and his subsequent confession, the "cat was sufficiently out of the bag to exert a coercive impact" on respondent's confession, rendering it inadmissible.
Held: The Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not require the suppression of a confession, made after proper Miranda warnings and a valid waiver of rights, solely because the police had obtained an earlier voluntary but unwarned admission from the suspect. Pp. 470 U. S. 303-318.
(a) A procedural Miranda violation differs in significant respects from violations of the Fourth Amendment, which have traditionally mandated a broad application of the "fruits" doctrine that requires exclusion as "fruit of the poisonous tree" of evidence discovered as a result of an unconstitutional search. The Fifth Amendment prohibits use by the prosecution in its case in chief only of compelled testimony, and failure to administer Miranda warnings creates a presumption of compulsion, requiring that unwarned statements that are otherwise voluntary within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment be excluded from evidence. But the Miranda presumption does not require that fruits of otherwise voluntary statements be discarded as inherently tainted. It is an unwarranted extension of Miranda to hold that a simple failure to administer the warnings, unaccompanied by any actual coercion or other circumstances calculated to undermine the suspect's ability to exercise his free will, so taints the investigatory process that a subsequent voluntary and informed waiver is ineffective for some indeterminate period. Pp. 470 U. S. 304-309.
(b) The failure of police to administer Miranda warnings does not mean that the statements received have actually been coerced, but only that courts will presume the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination has not been intelligently exercised. Absent deliberate coercion or improper tactics in obtaining an unwarned statement, a careful and thorough administration of Miranda warnings cures the condition that rendered the unwarned statement inadmissible. The warnings convey the relevant information, and thereafter the suspect's choice whether to exercise his privilege to remain silent should ordinarily be viewed as an act of free will. Endowing the psychological effects of voluntary unwarned admissions -- such as the psychological impact of the suspect's conviction that he has "let the cat out of the bag" -- with constitutional implications would, practically speaking, disable the police from obtaining the suspect's informed cooperation even when the official coercion proscribed by the Fifth Amendment played no part in either his warned or unwarned confessions. Pp. 470 U. S. 309-314.
(c) Respondent knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to remain silent before he executed his written confession, and his earlier statement was voluntary, within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment. Neither the environment nor the manner of either "interrogation" was coercive. To impose a requirement, suggested by respondent, that he should also have been given an additional warning at the station house that his prior statement could not be used against him, is neither practicable nor constitutionally necessary. Pp. 470 U. S. 314-317.
(d) The dictates of Miranda and the goals of the Fifth Amendment proscription against use of compelled testimony are fully satisfied in the circumstances of this case by barring use of the unwarned statement in the case in chief. No further purpose is served by imputing "taint" to subsequent statements obtained pursuant to a voluntary and knowing waiver. Pp. 470 U. S. 317-318.
61 Ore. App. 673, 658 P.2d 552, reversed and remanded.
O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 470 U. S. 318. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 470 U. S. 364.