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Law School Case Brief

Oregon v. Elstad - 470 U.S. 298, 105 S. Ct. 1285 (1985)


The Miranda exclusionary rule serves the Fifth Amendment and sweeps more broadly than the Fifth Amendment itself. It may be triggered even in the absence of a Fifth Amendment violation. The Fifth Amendment prohibits use by the prosecution in its case in chief only of compelled testimony. Failure to administer Miranda warnings creates a presumption of compulsion. Consequently, unwarned statements that are otherwise voluntary within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment must nevertheless be excluded from evidence under Miranda. Thus, in the individual case, Miranda's preventive medicine provides a remedy even to a defendant who has suffered no identifiable constitutional harm. 


When officers of the Polk County, Ore., Sheriff's Office picked up respondent, Michael James Elstad, 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, Elstad executed a written confession. In Elstad'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. Elstad 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 Elstad's initial, unconstitutionally obtained statement and his subsequent confession, the "cat was sufficiently out of the bag to exert a coercive impact" on Elstad's confession, rendering it inadmissible. The State sought review of the judgment.


Did the voluntary and uncoerced statements of Elstad prior to being read his Miranda rights taint his subsequent waiver of his Fifth Amendment rights?




The Supreme Court of the United States held that Elstad’s statements, made in his own living room and in the presence of his mother before being taken to the police station, were not the subject of police coercion. The Court also held that a suspect who had once responded to unwarned yet noncoercive questioning was not thereby disabled from waiving his rights and confessing after he had been given the Miranda warnings. The Court finally held that Elstad's waiver of his Fifth Amendment rights after being arrested was done voluntarily and with full understanding of his rights. The Court therefore reversed the holding of the court of appeals.

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