Does Failure to Administer Miranda Warnings Before Eliciting Confession Render Any Subsequently Warned Statement Admissible ?
In Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 105 S. Ct. 1285, 84 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1985), the United States Supreme Court held that the failure to administer the Miranda warnings before eliciting a confession does not necessarily render any subsequently warned statement inadmissible and that the admissibility of such statements must turn on whether the subsequent waiver is voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently made. Id. at 310-11, 314-15.
The eighteen-year-old defendant in Elstad first admitted guilt when he was questioned without Miranda warnings in the living room of his home while his mother was in the kitchen area, a few steps away. Id. at 315.
After this initial confession, he was taken to the sheriff's headquarters where, approximately one hour later and after a full warning and waiver of his Miranda rights, he gave a complete statement detailing his participation in the crime. Id. at 301, 314-15.
The officers made no promises or threats during questioning at either the defendant's residence or the sheriff's headquarters. Id. at 301-02.
In holding the second statement admissible, the United States Supreme Court stated:
Far from establishing a rigid rule, we direct courts to avoid one; there is no warrant for presuming coercive effect where the suspect's initial inculpatory statement, though technically in violation of Miranda, was voluntary.
The relevant inquiry is whether, in fact, the second statement was also voluntarily made.
As in any such inquiry, the finder of fact must examine the surrounding circumstances and the entire course of police conduct with respect to the suspect in evaluating the voluntariness of his statements.
The fact that a suspect chooses to speak after being informed of his rights is, of course, highly probative. . . . We hold today that 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. Id. at 318.
Elstad thus rejected a rigid rule that would render inadmissible a statement given after Miranda warnings were administered solely because Miranda warnings were not given earlier.
However, Elstad also cautioned against a rigid rule that would simply allow the admission of all statements given after Miranda warnings.
Rather, courts must examine "the surrounding circumstances and the entire course of police conduct." Id. "When a prior statement is actually coerced, the time that passes between confessions, the change in place of interrogations, and the change in identity of the interrogators all bear on whether that coercion has carried over into the second confession." Id. at 310.
If a suspect made an unwarned but "clearly voluntary" earlier admission, a subsequent properly warned confession need not be suppressed, so long as the careful and thorough administration of the Miranda warning is given and the Miranda rights are waived. Id. at 310-11.
Thus, the condition that rendered the initial "unwarned statement inadmissible" is "cure[d]" as to the subsequent statements after Miranda warnings are properly given. Id. at 311.
The Court in Elstad limited its holding to situations where police did not engage in "deliberately coercive or improper tactics" in obtaining the initial statements. Id. at 314.