Court upholds defendant’s statements made during booking

Defendant was convicted of attempted illegal reentry and making a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Appellant testified at trial that he did not attempt to reenter the U.S., but was only seeking help for a painful jaw injury. The prosecution impeached appellant’s testimony with the fact that he did not mention the jaw injury when he was asked about his health during the booking process after he was arrested. Appellant answered these booking questions after invoking his Miranda rights. On appeal, appellant argued that this impeachment evidence violated his constitutional rights under Doyle v. Ohio (1976) 426 U.S. 610. Held: Reversed. When a defendant invokes his right to remain silent and an omission in his post-Miranda statements is arguably inconsistent with his trial testimony, the omission cannot be used to impeach him if he chooses to testify at trial. However, a direct inconsistency between the post-Miranda statements and the defendant’s trial testimony may be used for impeachment. Here, appellant’s statements to the booking officer were not directly inconsistent with his trial testimony as the questions did not directly call for appellant to mention his jaw injury. It was only the fact that he never mentioned his jaw injury that was relevant to impeach him. As a result, the impeachment evidence operated as an impermissible comment on appellant’s silence in violation of Doyle. Because the violation was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, reversal was required.  Thanks to CCAP for the summary of case law and contributions to this blog.

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