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Moran v. Burbine


    Citation. Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 106 S. Ct. 1135, 89 L. Ed. 2d 410, 1986 U.S. LEXIS 32, 54 U.S.L.W. 4265 (U.S. Mar. 10, 1986)

    Brief Fact Summary. The police detained the respondent, Brian Burbine (the “respondent”), and the respondent waived his right to counsel. The respondent, unaware that his sister obtained counsel for him, confessed to the crime. His counsel was told by police that they were not questioning him when they actually were acquiring his confession.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Fifth Amendment constitutional rights embodied by Miranda do not require police to notify the suspect of the presence of counsel, nor does it require police to notify counsel of interrogations with his or her client.

    Facts. The respondent was apprehended by police for murder. While in custody, but before any arraignment proceedings, the respondent waived his right to counsel and confessed to the crimes. Unbeknownst to the respondent, his sister found an attorney to represent him. The attorney contacted the police and informed them of his representation, and the police responded that they were not questioning him at that time. Therefore, the police did not inform the respondent that he had counsel, and they misinformed his counsel concerning the timing of their interrogation.

    Issue. Whether the police violated the respondent’s Fifth Amendment rights by not informing the respondent of the presence of his counsel?
    Whether the police violated the respondent’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel by misinforming counsel while withholding counsel’s existence to the respondent

    Held. The court declined to extend the current rights that have been developed under the Miranda line of cases.
    The only requirements for police to satisfy the respondent’s Fifth Amendment constitutional rights, is to notify him of his rights under Miranda (including right to counsel), and ensure that the respondent voluntarily and knowingly waived those rights. The Supreme Court of the United States (“Supreme Court”) did not extend a burden on officers to facilitate communication between counsel and suspect because they were concerned about adding confusion and uncertainty to the extent that police would have to inform the suspect.

    The Supreme Court held that there was no violation of the respondent’s Sixth Amendment constitutional rights because those rights did not yet attach prior to an arraignment proceeding.

    Dissent. The dissent viewed the deception of the police in lying to counsel as a deception of the respondent himself that amounted to a Fifth Amendment constitutional violation. The concern, therefore, is that in the future police could withhold counsel from suspects without any consequences.

    Discussion. Both the majority and the dissent agreed that the police conduct in this case was very questionable. But the majority did not see a constitutional safeguard against this practice under the Fifth or Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution (“Constitution”).


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