ROBERT KAUPP v. TEXAS
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FOURTEENTH DISTRICT
This case turns on the Fourth Amendment rule that a confession obtained by exploitation of an illegal arrest may not be used against a criminal defendant. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603 (1975). After a 14-year-old girl disappeared in January 1999, the Harris County Sheriffs Department learned she had had a sexual relationship with her 19-year-old half brother, who had been in the company of petitioner Robert Kaupp, then 17 years old, on the day of the girls disappearance. On January 26th, deputy sheriffs questioned the brother and Kaupp at headquarters; Kaupp was cooperative and was permitted to leave, but the brother failed a polygraph examination (his third such failure). Eventually he confessed that he had fatally stabbed his half sister and placed her body in a drainage ditch. He implicated Kaupp in the crime.
Detectives immediately tried but failed to obtain a warrant to question Kaupp.1 Detective Gregory Pinkins nevertheless decided (in his words) to get [Kaupp] in and confront him with what [the brother] had said. App. A to Pet. for Cert. 2. In the company of two other plain clothes detectives and three uniformed officers, Pinkins went to Kaupps house at approximately 3 a.m. on January 27th. After Kaupps father let them in, Pinkins, with at least two other officers, went to Kaupps bedroom, awakened him with a flashlight, identified himself, and said,
They stopped for 5 or 10 minutes where the victims body had just been found, in anticipation of confronting Kaupp with the brothers confession, and then went on to the sheriffs headquarters. There, they took Kaupp to an interview room, removed his handcuffs, and advised him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Kaupp first denied any involvement in the victims disappearance, but 10 or 15 minutes into the interrogation, told of the brothers confession, he admitted having some part in the crime. He did not, however, acknowledge causing the fatal wound or confess to murder, for which he was later indicted.
After moving unsuccessfully to suppress his confession as the fruit of an illegal arrest, Kaupp was convicted and sentenced to 55 years imprisonment. The State Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction by unpublished opinion, concluding that no arrest had occurred until after the confession. The state court said that Kaupp consented to go with the officers when he answered
A seizure of the person within the meaning of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments occurs when, taking into account all of the circumstances surrounding the encounter, the police conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that he was not at liberty to ignore the police presence and go about his business.
Although certain seizures may be justified on something less than probable cause, see, e.g., Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), we have never sustained against Fourth Amendment challenge the involuntary removal of a suspect from his home to a police station and his detention there for investigative purposes
absent probable cause or judicial authorization. Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811, 815 (1985)2; cf. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 589
590 (1980); compare Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 499 (1983) (plurality opinion) ([The police] may [not] seek to verify [mere] suspicions by means that approach the conditions of arrest), with United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) ([T]he police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity may be afoot, even if the officer lacks probable cause (quoting Terry, supra, at 30)). Such involuntary transport to a police station for questioning is sufficiently like arres[t] to invoke the traditional rule that arrests may constitutionally be made only on probable cause. Hayes, supra, at 816.
The state does not claim to have had probable cause here, and a straightforward application of the test just mentioned shows beyond cavil that Kaupp was arrested within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, there being evidence of every one of the probative circumstances mentioned by Justice Stewart in Mendenhall.3 A 17-year-old boy was awakened in his bedroom at three in the morning by at least three police officers, one of whom stated we need to go and talk. He was taken out in handcuffs, without shoes, dressed only in his underwear in January, placed in a patrol car, driven to the scene of a crime and then to the sheriffs offices, where he was taken into an interrogation room and questioned. This evidence points to arrest even more starkly than the facts in Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 212 (1979), where the petitioner was taken from a neighbors home to a police car, transported to a police station, and placed in an interrogation room. There we held it clear that the detention was in important respects indistinguishable from a traditional arrest and therefore required probable cause or judicial authorization to be legal. Ibid. The same is, if anything, even clearer here.
Contrary reasons mentioned by the state courts are no answer to the facts. Kaupps
Nor is it significant, as the state court thought, that the sheriffs department routinely transported individuals, including Kaupp on one prior occasion, while handcuffed for safety of the officers, or that Kaupp did not resist the use of handcuffs or act in a manner consistent with anything other than full cooperation. App. A to Pet. for Cert. 6. The test is an objective one, see, e.g., Chesternut, 486 U.S., at 574, and stressing the officers motivation of self-protection does not speak to how their actions would reasonably be understood. As for the lack of resistance, failure to struggle with a cohort of deputy sheriffs is not a waiver of Fourth Amendment protection, which does not require the perversity of resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer.
Since Kaupp was arrested before he was questioned, and because the state does not even claim that the sheriffs department had probable cause to detain him at that point, well-established precedent requires suppression of the confession unless that confession was an act of free will [sufficient] to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion. Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 486 (1963). Demonstrating such purgation is, of course, a function of circumstantial evidence, with the burden of persuasion on the state. See Brown, 422 U.S., at 604. Relevant considerations include observance of Miranda, [t]he temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession, the presence of intervening circumstances, and, particularly, the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct. 422 U.S., at 603
604 (footnotes and citation omitted).
The record before us shows that only one of these considerations, the giving of Miranda warnings, supports the state, and we held in Brown that Miranda warnings, alone and per se, cannot always break, for Fourth Amendment purposes, the causal connection between the illegality and the confession. 422 U.S., at 603 (emphasis in original); see also Taylor v. Alabama, 457 U.S. 687, 699 (1982) (OConnor, J., dissenting) (noting that, although Miranda warnings are an important factor, they are, standing alone, insufficient). All other factors point the opposite way. There is no indication from the record that any substantial time passed between Kaupps removal from his home in handcuffs and his confession after only 10 or 15 minutes of interrogation. In the interim, he remained in his partially clothed state in the physical custody of a number of officers, some of whom, at least, were conscious that they lacked probable cause to arrest. See Brown, supra, at 604605. In fact, the state has not even alleged any meaningful intervening event between the illegal arrest and Kaupps confession. Taylor, supra, at 691. Unless, on remand, the state can point to testimony undisclosed on the record before us, and weighty enough to carry the states burden despite the clear force of the evidence shown here, the confession must be suppressed.
The judgment of the State Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
1. The detectives applied to the district attorneys office for a pocket warrant, which they described as authority to take Kaupp into custody for questioning. App. 3 to App. D to Pet. for Cert. 6 (trial transcript). The detectives did not seek a conventional arrest warrant, as they did not believe they had probable cause for Kaupps arrest. See ibid. As the trial court later explained, the detectives had no evidence or motive to corroborate the brothers allegations of Kaupps involvement, see App. C to Pet. for Cert. 2; the brother had previously failed three polygraph examinations, while, only two days earlier, Kaupp had voluntarily taken and passed one, in which he denied his involvement, see id., at 12.
2. We have, however, left open the possibility that, under circumscribed procedures, a court might validly authorize a seizure on less than probable cause when the object is fingerprinting. Hayes, 470 U.S., at 817.
3. On the record before us, it is possible to debate whether the law enforcement officers were armed. The State Court of Appeals not only described them as armed but said specifically that Pinkinss weapon was visible, though not drawn, when he confronted Kaupp in the bedroom. See App. A to Pet. for Cert. 6. But at least one officer testified before the trial court that they went to Kaupps house unarmed. See App. 3 to App. D to Pet. for Cert. 8 (trial transcript).