United States v. Ramirez-Estrada

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-25-2014
  • Case #: 12-50340
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroeder and District Judge Tunheim
  • Full Text Opinion

Use of a defendant's post-Miranda-invocation of silence to impeach the defendant violates the defendant's constitutional rights under Doyle v. Ohio, regardless of whether or not the police complied with Miranda.

Jose Angel Ramirez-Estrada ("Ramirez-Estrada") was convicted of attempted illegal reentry and making a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Ramirez-Estrada testified in his own defense, stating he had no intention of entering the United States, and only approached the Port of Entry to obtain medical assistance. In rebuttal the government used Ramirez-Estrada's "prior statements in response to booking questions posed by a Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officer” to impeach him. These statements were made after Ramirez-Estrada had been arrested and had invoked his Miranda rights. Nothing Ramirez-Estrada said in those statements served to impeach his testimony. Rather, it is what he failed to say that was relevant to undermine his credibility. The Ninth Circuit held that "Ramirez-Estrada’s statements, by themselves, [were] not directly inconsistent with his testimony . It is only what he omitted from his statements—in other words, his silence—that was relevant to impeach him". Therefore, the government violated his constitutional rights under Doyle v. Ohio which held that after invoking the right to silence, a defendant's silence may not be used to impeach them at trial. The panel also found that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore REVERSED and REMANDED.

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