OREGON v. MATHIASONNo. 76-201.
429 U.S. 492 (1977)
Supreme Court of United States.
Decided January 25, 1977.
Respondent Carl Mathiason was convicted of first-degree burglary after a bench trial in which his confession was critical to the State's case. At trial he moved to suppress the confession as the fruit of questioning by the police not preceded by the warnings required in Miranda v. Arizona,
The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed respondent's conviction, but on his petition for review in the Supreme Court of Oregon that court by a divided vote reversed the conviction. It found that although Mathiason had not been arrested or otherwise formally detained, "the interrogation took place in a `coercive environment' " of the sort to which Miranda was intended to apply. The court conceded that its holding was contrary to decisions in other jurisdictions, and referred in particular to People v. Yukl,
The Supreme Court of Oregon described the factual situation surrounding the confession as follows:
The Supreme Court of Oregon reasoned from these facts that:
Our decision in Miranda set forth rules of police procedure applicable to "custodial interrogation." "By custodial interrogation, we mean 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." 384 U. S., at 444. Subsequently we have found the Miranda principle applicable to questioning which takes place in a prison setting during a suspect's term of imprisonment on a separate offense, Mathis v. United States,
In the present case, however, there is no indication that the questioning took place in a context where respondent's freedom to depart was restricted in any way. He came voluntarily to the police station, where he was immediately informed that he was not under arrest. At the close of a 1/2-hour interview respondent did in fact leave the police station without hindrance. It is clear from these facts that Mathiason was not in custody "or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way."
Such a noncustodial situation is not converted to one in which Miranda applies simply because a reviewing court concludes that, even in the absence of any formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement, the questioning took place in a "coercive environment." Any interview of one suspected of a crime by a police officer will have coercive aspects to it, simply by virtue of the fact that the police officer is part of a law enforcement system which may ultimately cause the suspect to be charged with a crime. But police officers are not required to administer Miranda warnings to everyone whom they question. Nor is the requirement of warnings to be imposed simply because the questioning takes place in the station house, or because the questioned person is one whom the police suspect. Miranda warnings are required only where there has been such a restriction on a person's freedom as to render him "in custody." It was that sort of coercive environment to which Miranda by its terms was made applicable, and to which it is limited.
The officer's false statement about having discovered Mathiason's fingerprints at the scene was found by the Supreme Court of Oregon to be another circumstance contributing to the coercive environment which makes the Miranda rationale applicable. Whatever relevance this fact
The petition for certiorari is granted, the judgment of the Oregon Supreme Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN would grant the writ but dissents from the summary disposition and would set the case for oral argument.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.
The respondent in this case was interrogated behind closed doors at police headquarters in connection with a burglary investigation. He had been named by the victim of the burglary as a suspect, and was told by the police that they believed he was involved. He was falsely informed that his fingerprints had been found at the scene, and in effect was advised that by cooperating with the police he could help himself. Not until after he had confessed was he given the warnings set forth in Miranda v. Arizona,
The Court today holds that for constitutional purposes all this is irrelevant because respondent had not " `been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.' " Ante, at 494, quoting Miranda v. Arizona, supra, at 444. I do not believe that such a determination is possible on the record before us. It is true that respondent was not formally placed under arrest, but surely formalities alone cannot control. At the very least, if respondent entertained an objectively reasonable belief that he was not free to leave during the questioning, then he was "deprived of his freedom of action in a significant way."
More fundamentally, however, I cannot agree with the Court's conclusion that if respondent were not in custody no warnings were required. I recognize that Miranda is limited to custodial interrogations, but that is because, as we noted last Term, the facts in the Miranda cases raised only this "narrow issue." Beckwith v. United States,
Miranda requires warnings to "combat" a situation in which there are "inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel
In my view, even if respondent were not in custody, the coercive elements in the instant case were so pervasive as to require Miranda-type warnings.
I respectfully dissent.
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
In my opinion the issues presented by this case are too important to be decided summarily. Of particular importance
On the one hand, the State surely has greater power to question a parolee about his activities than to question someone else. Moreover, as a practical matter, it seems unlikely that a Miranda warning would have much effect on a parolee's choice between silence and responding to police interrogation. Arguably, therefore, Miranda warnings are entirely inappropriate in the parole context.
On the other hand, a parolee is technically in legal custody continuously until his sentence has been served. Therefore, if a formalistic analysis of the custody question is to determine when the Miranda warning is necessary, a parolee should always be warned. Moreover, Miranda teaches that even if a suspect is not in custody, warnings are necessary if he is "otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." If a parolee being questioned in a police station is not described by that language, today's decision qualifies that part of Miranda to some extent. I believe we would have a better understanding of the extent of that qualification, and therefore of the situations in which warnings must be given to a suspect who is not technically in custody, if we had the benefit of full argument and plenary consideration.
I therefore respectfully dissent from the Court's summary disposition.
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