Chavez v. Martinez Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Martinez brought suit against police officers when he was shot during a struggle.

Facts of the case

Oliverio Martinez was stopped while riding his bicycle home from work by police investigating narcotics violations. When police attempted to handcuff him, a struggle ensued, but it is unclear who started it. During the struggle, Martinez was shot, resulting in permanent paralysis and loss of vision. A year later he sued the officers, saying the search and use of deadly force were unconstitutional. The officers introduced as evidence in their defense a taped confession obtained while Martinez was receiving medical treatment in the hospital, in which he admitted to grabbing the gun of one of the officers during the struggle. Martinez claimed that the tape could not be used as evidence because he had not been read his Miranda rights. The district court ruled with Martinez that the tape was inadmissible. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed.


Whether the right to be free from coercive question, as imposed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, is violated when an individuals statements are used in a matter, other than a criminal case.


“Remanded. In a divided decision, the Court determined that Martinez’s Fifth Amendment rights had not been violated

  • another panel of judges reasoned, however, that if he could show that his constitutional guarantee was placed at risk, he may show a violation of the right. All of the court agreed that whether Martinez may pursue a claim of liability for a due process violation should be addressed on remand.”


    The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment, holding that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity since the officer committed no violation of Martinez’s constitutional rights. A plurality of the Court found that Martinez was not compelled to be a witness against himself, and the circumstances warranted the intense questioning to preserve Martinez’s version of events. A majority of the Court agreed, however, that because additional consideration was necessary to address whether Martinez could pursue a claim of liability for a substantive due process violation, that the case must be remanded for further proceedings.

    • Case Brief: 2003
    • Petitioner: Chavez
    • Respondent: Martinez
    • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

    Citation: 538 US 760 (2003)
    Argued: Dec 4, 2002
    Decided: May 27, 2003