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North Carolina v. Butler


The defendant was involved in the armed robbery of a gas station. At the time of his arrest on a fugitive warrant, the defendant was fully advised of his Miranda rights, although he was not questioned at that time. Later, after it was determined that the defendant had an 11th grade education and was literate, he was given an “Advice of Rights” form containing the Miranda warnings, which he read. When asked if he understood his rights, the defendant stated that he did. However, the defendant refused to sign the waiver at the bottom of the form. He was then told that he did not need to either speak or sign the form, but that the agents would like to speak to him. The defendant stated, “I will talk to you, but I am not signing any form.” He then made an incriminating statement. The defendant said nothing when he was advised of his right to counsel, and at no time did he request counsel or attempt to terminate the questioning. He was ultimately convicted with the use of his verbal statement.


Whether the defendant validly waived his right to counsel at the time he made the incriminating statement, as required by Miranda?


Yes. Waivers may be made orally or in writing.


In Miranda, the Court held that an “express” statement (e.g., “I waive my right”) could constitute a valid waiver. However, the Court never made an express statement a requirement for obtaining a valid waiver. “An express written or oral statement of waiver of the right to remain silent or of the right to counsel is usually strong proof of the validity of that waiver, but is not inevitably either necessary or sufficient to establish waiver.” What is required, regardless of the form of the waiver, is that it be voluntary and knowing, considering “the particular facts and circumstances surrounding the case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused.” While the Court in Miranda held that mere silence, standing alone, is not enough to establish a valid waiver of rights, “that does not mean that the defendant’s silence, coupled with an understanding of his rights and a course of conduct indicating waiver, may never support a conclusion that a defendant has waived his rights.” In this case, the defendant’s waiver of his right to counsel can be inferred from his actions and words.


441 U.S. 369, 99 S. Ct.1755 (1979)

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