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Law School Case Brief

State v. Norstrom - 613 So. 2d 437 (Fla. 1993)

Rule:

The privilege granted under Fla. Stat. ch. 316.066 is applicable if no Miranda warnings are given. Further, if a law enforcement officer gives any indication to a defendant that he or she must respond to questions concerning the investigation of an accident, there must be an express statement by the law enforcement official to the defendant that "this is now a criminal investigation," followed immediately by Miranda warnings, before any statement by the defendant may be admitted. 

Facts:

After consuming alcoholic beverages, defendant Eric Norstrom allegedly drove his car into a crowd of people, killing one and injuring several others. During the investigation phase, the police read Norstrom his Miranda rights, and he signed a waiver form. Norstrom then gave a statement that included an admission that he had been drinking that night and that he was traveling at a high rate of speed just before the accident. The police then informed Norstrom that due to the seriousness of the accident, they were "changing hats" and repeated the questions about his drinking that night. After Norstrom was convicted in Florida state court, he appealed, arguing that the statements he made during the investigation phase were privileged under Fla. Stat. ch. 316.066 (1988) and, therefore, inadmissible at trial. The appellate court agreed with Norstrom, acknowledged a conflict with another appellate panel, and certified the question for review by the state supreme court. 

Issue:

Were Norstrom's Fifth Amendment rights violated when his statements during the investigation phase were admitted and used against him?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Florida quashed the appellate court's ruling as it pertained to the privilege claimed by Norstrom because he was informed of his Miranda rights, which included the right to remain silent, and he expressly waived his right to remain silent.

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