Chavez v. Martinez 538 U.S. 760, 123 S.Ct. 1994, 155 L.Ed.2d 984 (2003)
Martinez was in a shootout
with police and was seriously wounded. On the way to the hospital, a
police officer, Chavez, repeatedly questioned him.
Chavez claimed he was
worried that Martinez was going to die, and it is hard to get information
from dead people.
Seances are not admissible
Martinez was never charged
with a crime, and his statements in response to Chavez's questions were
never used against him. However, he sued Chavez under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violating his 5th
Amendment rights not to be compelled
in any criminal case or to be a witness against himself.
Chavez argued that he had
qualified immunity because he was acting within the scope of his duties.
The Trial Court found for
Martinez. Chavez appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that Chavez's coercive questioning violated Martinez's 5th
Amendment rights even though his
statements were not used against him in a criminal proceeding,
The Court found that that a
police officer violates due process
when he obtains a confession by coercive conduct, regardless of whether
the confession is subsequently used at trial.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that a police officer is only entitled to qualified immunity if they did
not violate Constitutional right.
The Court found that the 5th
Amendment has to do with what
happens in a courtroom. The self-incrimination clause is only violated
when the statement is used against the suspect during a criminal
In this case, no criminal
charges were ever filed, so Martinez's statements were never used
Compare this to a Grand
Jury, where the prosecution can give a witness immunity from prosecution
and compel them to testify against themselves. The 5th
Amendment is only triggered when
the witness is subject to a criminal penalty.
The Court noted that
Martinez might still be able to make a claim of a 14th
violation, so they remanded the case on that issue.
Basically, the Court said that
it isn't the compelled testimony that is a problem, it is the use of that
testimony to convict the defendant that is the 5th Amendment violation.