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 evidence.
  • 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. Chavez appealed.
    • 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 proceeding.
      • In this case, no criminal charges were ever filed, so Martinez’s statements were never used against him.
      • 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 Amendment due process 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.