Custodial Interrogation Standard

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Amdt5. Custodial Interrogation Standard

Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Miranda warnings must be given prior to “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” 1 The cases have distilled “custody or other significant deprivation of action” into a two-part assessment under which restricting a person's movement is a necessary but not sufficient element. Not all inhibitions of “free movement” trigger Miranda. Whether a person is “in custody” during questioning depends on the coercive pressure posed. The Court applies an objective, context-specific test of how intimidated a reasonable person in the suspect’s shoes would feel to freely exercise his right against self-incrimination. A police officer’s subjective and undisclosed view that a person being interrogated is a criminal suspect is not relevant for Miranda purposes, nor is the subjective view of the person being questioned.2 The only refinement to this one-size-fits-all reasonable person test is consideration of age if the detainee is a juvenile.3

An ordinary traffic stop does not to amount to Miranda “custody.” 4 Nor do all interrogations of prison inmates about previous outside conduct, even if the inmate is isolated from the general prison population for questioning.5 This view on prison interrogations evidences the Court's continuing movement toward individualized analyses of Miranda issues based on particular circumstances and away from the more categorical decisions announced soon after Miranda. Still, some of the early decisions may retain vitality. One example is the 1969 decision in Orozco v. Texas, which held that questioning a person upon his arrest in his home is custodial.6 On the other hand, the fact that a suspect may be present in a police station does not necessarily mean, in the absence of further restrictions, that questioning is custodial,7 and the fact that he is in his home or other familiar surroundings will ordinarily lead to a conclusion that the inquiry was noncustodial.8 Also, if a person has been subjected to Miranda custody, that custody ends when he is free to resume his normal life activities after questioning.9 Nevertheless, a break in custody may not end all Miranda implications for subsequent custodial interrogations.10

Miranda warnings must precede custodial interrogation. It is not necessary under Miranda that the police squarely ask a question. The breadth of the interrogation concept is demonstrated in Rhode Island v. Innis.11 There, police had apprehended the defendant as a murder suspect but had not found the weapon used. While he was being transported to police headquarters in a squad car, the defendant, who had been given the Miranda warnings and had asserted he wished to consult a lawyer before submitting to questioning, was not asked questions by the officers. However, the officers engaged in conversation among themselves, in which they indicated that a school for children with disabilities was near the crime scene and that they hoped the weapon was found before a child discovered it and was injured. The defendant then took them to the weapon’s hiding place.

Unanimously rejecting a contention that Miranda would have been violated only by express questioning, the Court said: “We conclude that the Miranda safeguards come into play whenever a person in custody is subjected to either express questioning or its functional equivalent. That is to say, the term ‘interrogation’ under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. The latter portion of this definition focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police. This focus reflects the fact that the Miranda safeguards were designed to vest a suspect in custody with an added measure of protection against coercive police practices, without regard to objective proof of the underlying intent of the police.” 12 A divided Court then concluded that the officers’ conversation did not amount to a functional equivalent of questioning and that the evidence was admissible.13

A later divided Court applied Innis in Arizona v. Mauro14 to hold that a suspect who had requested an attorney was not “interrogated” by bringing instead the suspect's wife, who also was a suspect, to speak with him in police presence. The majority emphasized that the suspect's wife had asked to speak with her husband, the meeting was therefore not a police-initiated ruse designed to elicit a response from the suspect, and in any event the meeting could not be characterized as an attempt by the police to use the coercive nature of confinement to extract a confession that would not be given in an unrestricted environment. The dissent argued that the police had exploited the wife's request to talk with her husband in a custodial setting to create a situation the police knew, or should reasonably have known, was reasonable likely to result in an incriminatory statement.

In Estelle v. Smith,15 the Court held that a court-ordered jailhouse interview by a psychiatrist seeking to determine the defendant's competency to stand trial constituted “interrogation” with respect to testimony on issues guilt and punishment; the psychiatrist’s conclusions about the defendant’s dangerousness were inadmissible at the capital sentencing phase of the trial because the defendant had not been given his Miranda warnings prior to the interview. That the defendant had been questioned by a psychiatrist designated to conduct a neutral competency examination, rather than by a police officer, was “immaterial,” the Court concluded, since the psychiatrist’s testimony at the penalty phase changed his role from one of neutrality to that of an agent of the prosecution.16 Other instances of questioning in less formal contexts in which the issues of custody and interrogation intertwine, e.g., in on-the-street encounters, await explication by the Court.

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966) (emphasis added). back
Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318 (1994). back
J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 261 (2011) (case remanded to evaluate whether a 13-year-old student questioned by a uniformed police officer and school administrators on school grounds was in custody). back
Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440 (1984) (roadside questioning of motorist stopped for traffic violation not custodial interrogation until “freedom of action is curtailed to a ‘degree associated with formal arrest’” ). Thus, “custody” for self-incrimination purposes under the Fifth Amendment does not necessarily cover all detentions that are “seizures” under the Fourth Amendment. Id. back
Howes v. Fields, 565 U.S. 499 (2012) (taking a prisoner incarcerated for disorderly conduct aside for questioning about an unrelated child molestation incident held, 6-3, not to constitute custodial interrogation under the totality of the circumstances in the case), distinguishing Mathis v. United States, 391 U.S. 1 (1968) (questioning state prisoner about unrelated federal tax violation held to be custodial interrogation). While the Howes Court split 6-3 on whether a custodial interrogation had taken place for Fifth Amendment purposes, the case was before it on habeas review, which requires that a clearly established Supreme Court precedent mandates a contrary result. All the Howes Justices agreed that Mathis had not, for purposes of habeas review of a state case, “clearly established” that all private questioning of an inmate about previous, outside conduct was “custodial” per se. Rather, Howes explained that a broader assessment of all relevant factors in each case was necessary to establish coercive pressure amounting to “custody.” Cf. Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010) (extended release of interrogated inmate back into the general prison population broke “custody” for purposes of later questioning); see also Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292 (1990) (inmate's conversation with an undercover agent does not create a coercive, police-dominated environment and does not implicate Miranda if the suspect does not know that he is conversing with a government agent). back
394 U.S. 324 (1969) (police entered suspect’s bedroom at 4 a.m., told him he was under arrest, and questioned him; four of the eight Justices who took part in the case, including three dissenters, voiced concern about this “broadening” of Miranda beyond the police station). back
Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492 (1977) (suspect came voluntarily to police station to be questioned, he was not placed under arrest while there, and he was allowed to leave at end of interview, even though he was named by victim as culprit, questioning took place behind closed doors, and he was falsely informed his fingerprints had been found at scene of crime); Salinas v. Texas, 570 U.S. 178 (2013) (plurality opinion) (voluntarily accompanying police to station for questioning). Cf. Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318 (1994). See also Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420 (1984) (required reporting to probationary officer is not custodial situation); Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004) (state court determination that teenager brought to police station by his parents was not “in custody” was not “unreasonable” for purposes of federal habeas review under the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)). back
Beckwith v. United States, 425 U.S. 341 (1976) (IRS agents’ interview with taxpayer in private residence was not a custodial interrogation, although inquiry had “focused” on him). back
This holds even in the case of convict who is released after interrogation back into the general population. Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010). back
Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981). back
446 U.S. 291 (1980). A remarkably similar factual situation was presented in Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977), which was decided under the Sixth Amendment. In Brewer, and also in Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964), and United States v. Henry, 447 U.S. 264 (1980), the Court has had difficulty in expounding on what constitutes interrogation for Sixth Amendment counsel purposes. The Innis Court indicated that the definitions are not the same for each Amendment. 446 U.S. at 300 n.4. back
Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 300–01 (1980). back
446 U.S. at 302–04. Justices Marshall, Brennan, and Stevens dissented, id. at 305, 307. See also Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292 (1990) (absence of coercive environment makes Miranda inapplicable to jail cell conversation between suspect and police undercover agent). back
481 U.S. 520 (1987). back
451 U.S. 454 (1981). back
451 U.S. at 467. back

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