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Law School Case Brief

Oregon v. Bradshaw - 462 U.S. 1039, 103 S. Ct. 2830 (1983)

Rule:

After a finding that there has been no violation of an accused's right to counsel or to remain silent upon a reinitiation of discussion by the accused, the next inquiry is whether a valid waiver of the right to counsel and the right to silence has occurred, that is, whether the purported waiver was knowing and intelligent and found to be so under the totality of the circumstances, including the necessary fact that the accused, not the police, reopened the dialogue with the authorities. That determination depends upon the particular facts and circumstances surrounding the case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused.

Facts:

Police in Oregon had been investigating the death of a minor, whose body was found in his pickup truck after it had crashed. During the investigation, the police asked a man to come to the police station for questioning. There, he was advised of his Miranda rights, and then admitted that he had provided the minor and others with liquor at a party, but denied involvement in the traffic accident that apparently killed the minor. The man was then placed under arrest for furnishing liquor to a minor, and again advised of his Miranda rights. The accused again denied involvement in the accident and then requested an attorney. The police at that point terminated the conversation. While being transferred to a jail, the accused asked a police officer, "Well, what is going to happen to me now?" The police officer responded by indicating that the accused did not have to speak to him, and the accused said that he understood. They then discussed where the accused was being taken and the offense for which the accused would be charged. The police officer then suggested that the accused take a polygraph examination. The accused did so after again being advised of his Miranda rights and after signing a written waiver of those rights. After the test, the polygraph examiner told him he did not believe the accused was telling the truth. The accused then admitted that he had been driving the truck, that he had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, and that the truck left the road, crashed, and went into a creek after he passed out. The accused was charged with first-degree manslaughter, driving while under the influence of intoxicants, and driving while his license was revoked. His motion to suppress his statements was denied, and he was found guilty after a bench trial. The Court of Appeals of Oregon reversed, concluding that his statements had been obtained in violation of the accused's Fifth Amendment rights. The State sought certiorari review.

Issue:

Were the accused’s statements obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, thereby, warranting the reversal of his conviction?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court held that the accused’s inquiry was an initiation of conversation, and therefore, the accused had waived his Fifth Amendment right to counsel during interrogation. Although bare inquiries relating to the routine incidents of the custodial relationship were not to be held as initiating a conversation, in the instant case, the accused’s inquiry could have been reasonably understood by the officer as relating to the investigation. Further, the officer immediately reminded accused that accused did not have to speak to him, supporting the conclusion that the officer understood the inquiry as one relating to the investigation. Thus, because there was no violation of accused’s right to counsel and silence and the statements made by accused were voluntary and resulted from a knowing waiver of his right to remain silent, the reversal of accused’s conviction was in error.

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