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State v. Avila-Nava

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 07-03-2013
Case #: A146527
Haselton, C.J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Sercombe, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A146527.pdf

Criminal Procedure: Follow-up and clarifying questions after giving Miranda warnings are permissible only when the invocation of the right to remain silent is equivocal. Error allowing prosecution to impeach witness is not harmless error when the defendant's credibility is vital to the defense.

Defendant appealed a conviction of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, unlawful use of a weapon, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.  Defendant was stopped by police, read his Miranda warning, and Defendant acknowledged that he understood those rights. Later, at the police station, detectives again read him his Miranda warning.  At this point Defendant told the detectives he did not understand the Miranda warnings and said “I won’t answer any questions,” which the detective understood as a question. The detective continued to question Defendant about whether he wanted to talk.  The Court of Appeals found detective’s constitutionally-precluded questioning culminated in Defendant's agreement to answer the detective’s questions regarding possible criminal involvement. Follow-up and clarifying questions are permissible only when the invocation of the right to remain silent is equivocal.  The Court found that the Defendant's ultimately inculpatory statements were the product of the constitutional violation because the defendant unequivocally asserted his right to remain silent and therefore the officer's subsequent questions violated Defendant's right against self-incrimination. The Court found that the error was not harmless because it allowed the prosecution to impeach Defendant in a case where Defendant’s credibility was vital to the defense. Reversed and remanded