Moran v. Burbine Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The police detained the respondent, Brian Burbine (the “respondent”), and the respondent waived his right to counsel. The respondent, unaware that his sister obtained counsel for him, confessed to the crime. His counsel was told by police that they were not questioning him when they actually were acquiring his confession.

Facts of the case

“Brian Burbine was arrested for burglary in Cranston, Rhode Island. Police then received information connecting Burbine to a murder that happened in town a few months earlier. Burbine was read his Miranda rights and held for questioning. At first, Burbine refused to waive his rights, but later he signed three forms acknowledging that he understood his right to an attorney and waived that right. After questioning, he also signed three written statements admitting to the murder. That same night Burbine’s sister called the local Public Defender’s Office to get a lawyer for her brother. The sister did not know about the potential murder charge. When the Public Defender called the Cranston Police Station, police told her that Burbine was unavailable and would not be questioned until the next day. Police never told Burbine that an attorney attempted to contact him.At trial, the judged denied a motion to suppress the statements made at the police station, holding that Burbine knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel and privilege against self-incrimination. The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island denied Burbine’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed, holding that the police officer’s deliberate or reckless failure to inform Burbine that his counsel attempted to contact him invalidated his waiver of rights.”


Whether the police violated the respondent’s Fifth Amendment rights by not informing the respondent of the presence of his counsel?
Whether the police violated the respondent’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel by misinforming counsel while withholding counsel’s existence to the respondent


The court declined to extend the current rights that have been developed under the Miranda line of cases.
The only requirements for police to satisfy the respondent’s Fifth Amendment constitutional rights, is to notify him of his rights under Miranda (including right to counsel), and ensure that the respondent voluntarily and knowingly waived those rights. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) did not extend a burden on officers to facilitate communication between counsel and suspect because they were concerned about adding confusion and uncertainty to the extent that police would have to inform the suspect.


“On review, the United States Supreme Court found that defendant at no time requested an attorney, and events occurring outside the presence of defendant and entirely unknown to him had no bearing on his capacity to comprehend and knowingly waive his rights. The Court held that once a person knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights, the waiver was valid as a matter of law. The failure of the police to inform the defendant of counsel’s telephone call did not affect the validity of his waiver of the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and to have counsel present during questioning, which depends only on a determination that the waiver was uncoerced, that the defendant was aware of these rights at all times, and that he was aware of the state’s intention to use his statements to secure a conviction. The Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel, which bars any interference with defense counsel’s efforts to act as a medium between the state and the defendant during questioning, does not attach until the first formal charging proceeding, and therefore, was not violated in this case

  • and the conduct of the police was not so offensive as to deprive the defendant of the fundamental fairness guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment .”
    • Case Brief: 1986
    • Petitioner: John Moran, Superintendent of the Rhode Island Dept. of Corrections
    • Respondent: Brian K. Burbine
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 475 US 412 (1986)
    Argued: Nov 13, 1985
    Decided: Mar 10, 1986