Oregon v. Elstad

Oregon v. Elstad Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
470 U.S. 298 (1985)

ISSUE: Does an initial failure to administer Miranda warnings before questioning a suspect "taint" a subsequent voluntary but unwarned confession that was given after Miranda warnings were given and waived?
HOLDING: No, a suspect who has once responded to unwarned yet uncoercive questioning is not thereby disabled from waiving his rights and confessing after he has been given the requisite Miranda warnings
FACTS:
  • The Gross household was broken into and art objects and furnishings were stolen
  • A witness to the burglary implicated D, and police obtained an arrest warrant and went to D's house
  • An officer spoke with D in his living room while another officer spoke with his mother in the kitchen
  • The officer with D said that he felt that D was involved in the burglary, and D said "Yes, I was there"
  • D was then taken to the station, Mirandized, and he waived his rights and made a voluntary statement
REASONING:
  • No excludable as "fruits": 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
    • Admissibility of any subsequent statement should turn on solely whether it was knowingly and voluntarily made
    • Since there was no actual infringement of D's constitutional rights in the first instance, subsequent voluntary statement is not excludable as the fruit of the poisonous tree
  • Subsequent statement voluntary: A careful and thorough administration of Miranda warnings serves to cure the condition that rendered the unwarned statement inadmissible
    • Psychological impact of the voluntary disclosure of a guilty secret does not qualify as state compulsion and does not compromise the voluntariness of a subsequent informed waiver
    • Without coercion in either the first or subsequent confession, little justification remains for excluding the subsequent statement
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