Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dombrowski: 5th Amend. Right Not "Clearly Established" for Prior Conviction Admissions

In Dombrowski v. Mingo, No. 05-13140 (Oct. 3, 2008), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief to a Florida inmate, who claimed that a Florida state judge violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when, without warning Mingo of the consequences, he asked Mingo to admit, for purposes of enhancing his sentence as a Florida "habitual offender," that he had several prior felony convictions.
The Court recognized that in Miranda the Supreme Court broadly stated the scope of the privilege, and recognized caselaw in other circuits which held that the privilege applies when a court inquires of a defendant’s previous convictions for habitual offender enhancement purposes. However, the Court noted that some circuits did not construe the Fifth Amendment to apply in this situation. Thus, the right was not "clearly established." Hence, the Florida state court’s failure to apprise Mingo of his Fifth Amendment privilege was not contrary to "clearly established" law – and therefore could not give rise to habeas corpus relief.