Supreme Court of the United States
Decided March 4, 1985
Justice O’Connor, For the Court
|Topic: Criminal Procedure*||Court vote: 6–3|
Click any Justice for detailJoining O'Connor opinion: Justice BLACKMUN Chief Justice BURGER Justice POWELL Justice REHNQUIST Justice WHITE
|Citation: 470 U.S. 298||Docket: 83–773||Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez|
* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database
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JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case requires us to decide whether an initial failure of law enforcement officers to administer the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966), without more, "taints" subsequent admissions made after a suspect has been fully advised of and has waived his Miranda rights. Respondent, Michael James Elstad, was convicted of burglary by an Oregon trial court. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondent's signed confession, although voluntary, was rendered inadmissible by a prior remark made in response to questioning without benefit of Miranda warnings. We granted certiorari, 465 U.S. 1078 (1984), and we now reverse.
In December, 1981, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Gross, in the town of Salem, Polk County, Ore., was burglarized. Missing were art objects and furnishings valued at $150,000. A witness to the burglary contacted the Polk County Sheriff's Office, implicating respondent Michael Elstad, an 18-year-old neighbor and friend of the Grosses' teenage son. Thereupon, Officers Burke and McAllister went to the home of respondent Elstad, with a warrant for his arrest. Elstad's mother answered the door. She led the officers to her son's room, where he lay on his bed, clad in shorts and listening to his stereo. The officers asked him to get dressed and to accompany them into the living room. Officer McAllister asked respondent's mother to step into the kitchen, where he explained that they had a warrant for her son's arrest for the burglary of a neighbor's residence. Officer Burke remained with Elstad in the living room. He later testified:
I sat down with Mr. Elstad and I asked him if he was aware of why Detective McAllister and myself were there to talk with him. He stated no, he had no idea why we were there. I then asked him if he knew a person by the name of Gross, and he said yes, he did, and also added that he heard that there was a robbery at the Gross house. And at that point, I told Mr. Elstad that I felt he was involved in that, and he looked at me and stated, 'Yes, I was there.'
App.19-20. The officers then escorted Elstad to the back of the patrol car. As they were about to leave for the Polk County Sheriff's office, Elstad's father arrived home and came to the rear of the patrol car. The officers advised him that his son was a suspect in the burglary. Officer Burke testified that Mr. Elstad became quite agitated, opened the rear door of the car and admonished his son: "I told you that you were going to get into trouble. You wouldn't listen to me. You never learn." Id. at 21.
Elstad was transported to the Sheriff's headquarters and, approximately one hour later, Officers Burke and McAllister joined him in McAllister's office. McAllister then advised respondent for the first time of his Miranda rights, reading from a standard card. Respondent indicated he understood his rights, and, having these rights in mind, wished to speak with the officers. Elstad gave a full statement, explaining that he had known that the Gross family was out of town, and had been paid to lead several acquaintances to the Gross residence and show them how to gain entry through a defective sliding glass door. The statement was typed, reviewed by respondent, read back to him for correction, initialed and signed by Elstad and both officers. As an afterthought, Elstad added and initialed the sentence, "After leaving the house, Robby & I went back to [the] van & Robby handed me a small bag of grass." App. 42. Respondent concedes that the officers made no threats or promises either at his residence or at the Sheriff's office.
Respondent was charged with first-degree burglary. He was represented at trial by retained counsel. Elstad waived his right to a jury, and his case was tried by a Circuit Court Judge. Respondent moved at once to suppress his oral statement and signed confession. He contended that the statement he made in response to questioning at his house "let the cat out of the bag," citing United States v. Bayer, 331 U. S. 532 (1947), and tainted the subsequent confession as "fruit of the poisonous tree," citing Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U. S. 471 (1963). The judge ruled that the statement, "I was there," had to be excluded because the defendant had not been advised of his Miranda rights. The written confession taken after Elstad's arrival at the Sheriff's office, however, was admitted in evidence. The court found:
[H]is written statement was given freely, voluntarily and knowingly by the defendant after he had waived his right to remain silent and have counsel present, which waiver was evidenced by the card which the defendant had signed. [It] was not tainted in any way by the previous brief statement between the defendant and the Sheriff's Deputies that had arrested him.
App. 45. Elstad was found guilty of burglary in the first degree. He received a 5-year sentence, and was ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution.
Following his conviction, respondent appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals, relying on Wong Sun and Bayer. The State conceded that Elstad had been in custody when he made his statement, "I was there," and accordingly agreed that this statement was inadmissible as having been given without the prescribed Miranda warnings. But the State maintained that any conceivable "taint" had been dissipated prior to the respondent's written confession by McAllister's careful administration of the requisite warnings. The Court of Appeals reversed respondent's conviction, identifying the crucial constitutional inquiry as
whether there was a sufficient break in the stream of events between [the] inadmissible statement and the written confession to insulate the latter statement from the effect of what went before.
61 Ore.App. 673, 676, 658 P.2d 552, 554 (1983). The Oregon court concluded:
Regardless of the absence of actual compulsion, the coercive impact of the unconstitutionally obtained statement remains, because in a defendant's mind it has sealed his fate. It is this impact that must be dissipated in order to make a subsequent confession admissible. In determining whether it has been dissipated, lapse of time, and change of place from the original surroundings are the most important considerations.
Id. at 677, 658 P.2d at 554.
Because of the brief period separating the two incidents, the "cat was sufficiently out of the bag to exert a coercive impact on [respondent's] later admissions." Id. at 678, 658 P.2d at 555.
The State of Oregon petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review, and review was declined. This Court granted certiorari to consider the question whether the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires the suppression of a confession, made after proper Miranda warnings and a valid waiver of rights, solely because the police had obtained an earlier voluntary but unwarned admission from the defendant.
The arguments advanced in favor of suppression of respondent's written confession rely heavily on metaphor. One metaphor, familiar from the Fourth Amendment context, would require that respondent's confession, regardless of its integrity, voluntariness, and probative value, be suppressed as the "tainted fruit of the poisonous tree" of the Miranda violation. A second metaphor questions whether a confession can be truly voluntary once the "cat is out of the bag." Taken out of context, each of these metaphors can be misleading. They should not be used to obscure fundamental differences between the role of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule and the function of Miranda in guarding against the prosecutorial use of compelled statements as prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. The Oregon court assumed and respondent here contends that a failure to administer Miranda warnings necessarily breeds the same consequences as police infringement of a constitutional right, so that evidence uncovered following an unwarned statement must be suppressed as "fruit of the poisonous tree." We believe this view misconstrues the nature of the protections afforded by Miranda warnings, and therefore misreads the consequences of police failure to supply them.
Prior to Miranda, the admissibility of an accused's in-custody statements was judged solely by whether they were "voluntary" within the meaning of the Due Process Clause. See, e.g., Haynes v. Washington, 373 U. S. 503 (1963); Chambers v. Florida, 309 U. S. 227 (1940). If a suspect's statements had been obtained by "techniques and methods offensive to due process," Haynes v. Washington, 373 U.S. at 373 U. S. 515, or under circumstances in which the suspect clearly had no opportunity to exercise "a free and unconstrained will," id. at 373 U. S. 514, the statements would not be admitted. The Court in Miranda required suppression of many statements that would have been admissible under traditional due process analysis by presuming that statements made while in custody and without adequate warnings were protected by the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment, of course, is not concerned with nontestimonial evidence. See Schmerber v. California, 384 U. S. 757, 384 U. S. 764 (1966) (defendant may be compelled to supply blood samples). Nor is it concerned with moral and psychological pressures to confess emanating from sources other than official coercion. See, e.g., California v. Beheler, 463 U. S. 1121, 1125, and n. 3 (1983) (per curiam); Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U. S. 291, 446 U. S. 303, and n. 10 (1980); Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U. S. 492, 429 U. S. 495 -496 (1977). Voluntary statements "remain a proper element in law enforcement." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. at 384 U. S. 478.
Indeed, far from being prohibited by the Constitution, admissions of guilt by wrongdoers, if not coerced, are inherently desirable.... Absent some officially coerced self-accusation, the Fifth Amendment privilege is not violated by even the most damning admissions.
United States v. Washington, 431 U. S. 181, 431 U. S. 187 (1977). As the Court noted last Term in New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 467 U. S. 654 (1984) (footnote omitted):
The Miranda Court, however, presumed that interrogation in certain custodial circumstances is inherently coercive, and... that statements made under those circumstances are inadmissible unless the suspect is specifically informed of his Miranda rights and freely decides to forgo those rights. The prophylactic Miranda warnings therefore are 'not themselves rights protected by the Constitution, but [are] instead measures to insure that the right against compulsory self-incrimination [is] protected.' Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U. S. 433, 417 U. S. 444 (1974); see Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U. S. 477, 451 U. S. 492 (1981) (POWELL, J., concurring). Requiring Miranda warnings before custodial interrogation provides 'practical reinforcement' for the Fifth Amendment right.
Respondent's contention that his confession was tainted by the earlier failure of the police to provide Miranda warnings, and must be excluded as "fruit of the poisonous tree," assumes the existence of a constitutional violation. This figure of speech is drawn from Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U. S. 471 (1963), in which the Court held that evidence and witnesses discovered as a result of a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment must be excluded from evidence. The Wong Sun doctrine applies as well when the fruit of the Fourth Amendment violation is a confession. It is settled law that
a confession obtained through custodial interrogation after an illegal arrest should be excluded unless intervening events break the causal connection between the illegal arrest and the confession so that the confession is 'sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint.'
Taylor v. Alabama, 457 U. S. 687, 457 U. S. 690 (1982) (quoting Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590, 422 U. S. 602 (1975)).
But as we explained in Quarles and Tucker, a procedural Miranda violation differs in significant respects from violations of the Fourth Amendment, which have traditionally mandated a broad application of the "fruits" doctrine. The purpose of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule is to deter unreasonable searches, no matter how probative their fruits. Dunaway v. New York, 442 U. S. 200, 442 U. S. 216 -217 (1979); Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. at 422 U. S. 600 -602.
The exclusionary rule,... when utilized to effectuate the Fourth Amendment, serves interests and policies that are distinct from those it serves under the Fifth.
Id. at 422 U. S. 601. Where a Fourth Amendment violation "taints" the confession, a finding of voluntariness for the purposes of the Fifth Amendment is merely a threshold requirement in determining whether the confession may be admitted in evidence. Taylor v. Alabama, supra, at 457 U. S. 690. Beyond this, the prosecution must show a sufficient break in events to undermine the inference that the confession was caused by the Fourth Amendment violation.
The Miranda exclusionary rule, however, serves the Fifth Amendment and sweeps more broadly than the Fifth Amendment itself. It may be triggered even in the absence of a Fifth Amendment violation. [ Footnote 1 ] The Fifth Amendment prohibits use by the prosecution in its case in chief only of compelled testimony. Failure to administer Miranda warnings creates a presumption of compulsion. Consequently, unwarned statements that are otherwise voluntary within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment must nevertheless be excluded from evidence under Miranda. Thus, in the individual case, Miranda's preventive medicine provides a remedy even to the defendant who has suffered no identifiable constitutional harm. See New York v. Quarles, supra, at 467 U. S. 654 ; Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U. S. 433, 417 U. S. 444 (1974).
But the Miranda presumption, though irrebuttable for purposes of the prosecution's case in chief, does not require that the statements and their fruits be discarded as inherently tainted. Despite the fact that patently voluntary statements taken in violation of Miranda must be excluded from the prosecution's case, the presumption of coercion does not bar their use for impeachment purposes on cross-examination. Harris v. New York, 401 U. S. 222 (1971). The Court in Harris rejected as an "extravagant extension of the Constitution," the theory that a defendant who had confessed under circumstances that made the confession inadmissible, could thereby enjoy the freedom to
deny every fact disclosed or discovered as a 'fruit' of his confession, free from confrontation with his prior statements,
and that the voluntariness of his confession would be totally irrelevant. Id. at 401 U. S. 225, and n. 2. Where an unwarned statement is preserved for use in situations that fall outside the sweep of the Miranda presumption, "the primary criterion of admissibility [remains] the 'old' due process voluntariness test." Schulhofer, Confessions and the Court, 79 Mich.L.Rev. 865, 877 (1981).
In Michigan v. Tucker, supra, the Court was asked to extend the Wong Sun fruits doctrine to suppress the testimony of a witness for the prosecution whose identity was discovered as the result of a statement taken from the accused without benefit of full Miranda warnings. As in respondent's case, the breach of the Miranda procedures in Tucker involved no actual compulsion. The Court concluded that the unwarned questioning
did not abridge respondent's constitutional privilege,... but departed only from the prophylactic standards later laid down by this Court in Miranda to safeguard that privilege.
417 U.S. at 417 U. S. 446. Since there was no actual infringement of the suspect's constitutional rights, the case was not controlled by the doctrine expressed in Wong Sun that fruits of a constitutional violation must be suppressed. In deciding "how sweeping the judicially imposed consequences of a failure to administer Miranda warnings should be," 417 U.S. at 417 U. S. 445, the Tucker Court noted that neither the general goal of deterring improper police conduct nor the Fifth Amendment goal of assuring trustworthy evidence would be served by suppression of the witness' testimony. The unwarned confession must, of course, be suppressed, but the Court ruled that introduction of the third-party witness' testimony did not violate Tucker's Fifth Amendment rights.
We believe that this reasoning applies with equal force when the alleged "fruit" of a noncoercive Miranda violation is neither a witness nor an article of evidence, but the accused's own voluntary testimony. As in Tucker, the absence of any coercion or improper tactics undercuts the twin rationales -trustworthiness and deterrence -for a broader rule. Once warned, the suspect is free to exercise his own volition in deciding whether or not to make a statement to the authorities. The Court has often noted:
'[A] living witness is not to be mechanically equated with the proffer of inanimate evidentiary objects illegally seized.... [T]he living witness is an individual human personality whose attributes of will, perception, memory and volition interact to determine what testimony he will give.'
United States v. Ceccolini, 435 U. S. 268, 435 U. S. 277 (1978) (emphasis added) (quoting from Smith v. United States, 117 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 3-4, 324 F.2d 879, 881-882 (1963) (Burger, J.) (footnotes omitted), cert. denied, 377 U.S. 954 (1964)).
Because Miranda warnings may inhibit persons from giving information, this Court has determined that they need be administered only after the person is taken into "custody," or his freedom has otherwise been significantly restrained. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. at 384 U. S. 478. Unfortunately, the task of defining "custody" is a slippery one, and "policemen investigating serious crimes [cannot realistically be expected to] make no errors whatsoever." Michigan v. Tucker, supra, at 417 U. S. 446. If errors are made by law enforcement officers in administering the prophylactic Miranda procedures, they should not breed the same irremediable consequences as police infringement of the Fifth Amendment itself. It is an unwarranted extension of Miranda to hold that a simple failure to administer the warnings, unaccompanied by any actual coercion or other circumstances calculated to undermine the suspect's ability to exercise his free will, so taints the investigatory process that a subsequent voluntary and informed waiver is ineffective for some indeterminate period. Though Miranda requires that the unwarned admission must be suppressed, the admissibility of any subsequent statement should turn in these circumstances solely on whether it is knowingly and voluntarily made.
The Oregon court, however, believed that the unwarned remark compromised the voluntariness of respondent's later confession. It was the court's view that the prior answer, and not the unwarned questioning, impaired respondent's ability to give a valid waiver, and that only lapse of time and change of place could dissipate what it termed the "coercive impact" of the inadmissible statement. When a prior statement is actually coerced, the time that passes between confessions, the change in place of interrogations, and the change in identity of the interrogators all bear on whether that coercion has carried over into the second confession. See Westover v. United States, decided together with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. at 384 U. S. 494 ; Clewis v. Texas, 386 U. S. 707 (1967). The failure of police to administer Miranda warnings does not mean that the statements received have actually been coerced, but only that courts will presume the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination has not been intelligently exercised. See New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. at 476 U. S. 654, and n. 5; Miranda v. Arizona, supra at 470 U. S. 457. Of the courts that have considered whether a properly warned confession must be suppressed because it was preceded by an unwarned but clearly voluntary admission, the majority have explicitly or implicitly recognized that Westover's requirement of a break in the stream of events is inapposite. [ Footnote 2 ] In these circumstances, a careful and thorough administration of Miranda warnings serves to cure the condition that rendered the unwarned statement inadmissible. The warning conveys the relevant information, and thereafter, the suspect's choice whether to exercise his privilege to remain silent should ordinarily be viewed as an "act of free will." Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. at 371 U. S. 486.
The Oregon court nevertheless identified a subtle form of lingering compulsion, the psychological impact of the suspect's conviction that he has let the cat out of the bag and, in so doing, has sealed his own fate. But endowing the psychological effects of voluntary unwarned admissions with constitutional implications would, practically speaking, disable the police from obtaining the suspect's informed cooperation even when the official coercion proscribed by the Fifth Amendment played no part in either his warned or unwarned confessions. As the Court remarked in Bayer:
[A]fter an accused has once let the cat out of the bag by confessing, no matter what the inducement, he is never thereafter free of the psychological and practical disadvantages of having confessed. He can never get the cat back in the bag. The secret is out for good. In such a sense, a later confession may always be looked upon as fruit of the first. But this Court has never gone so far as to hold that making a confession under circumstances which preclude its use, perpetually disables the confessor from making a usable one after those conditions have been removed.
331 U.S. at 331 U. S. 540 -541. Even in such extreme cases as Lyons v. Oklahoma, 322 U. S. 596 (1944), in which police forced a full confession from the accused through unconscionable methods of interrogation, the Court has assumed that the coercive effect of the confession could, with time, be dissipated. See also Westover v. United States, supra, at 384 U. S. 496.
This Court has never held that the psychological impact of voluntary disclosure of a guilty secret qualifies as state compulsion or compromises the voluntariness of a subsequent informed waiver. The Oregon court, by adopting this expansive view of Fifth Amendment compulsion, effectively immunizes a suspect who responds to pre Miranda warning questions from the consequences of his subsequent informed waiver of the privilege of remaining silent. See 61 Ore.App. at 679, 658 P.2d at 555 (Gillette, P. J., concurring). This immunity comes at a high cost to legitimate law enforcement activity, while adding little desirable protection to the individual's interest in not being compelled to testify against himself. Cf. Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U. S. 96, 423 U. S. 107 -111 (1975) (WHITE, J., concurring in result). When neither the initial nor the subsequent admission is coerced, little justification exists for permitting the highly probative evidence of a voluntary confession to be irretrievably lost to the factfinder.
There is a vast difference between the direct consequences flowing from coercion of a confession by physical violence or other deliberate means calculated to break the suspect's will and the uncertain consequences of disclosure of a "guilty secret" freely given in response to an unwarned but noncoercive question, as in this case. JUSTICE BRENNAN's contention that it is impossible to perceive any causal distinction between this case and one involving a confession that is coerced by torture is wholly unpersuasive. [ Footnote 3 ] Certainly, in respondent's case, the causal connection between any psychological disadvantage created by his admission and his ultimate decision to cooperate is speculative and attenuated at best. It is difficult to tell with certainty what motivates a suspect to speak. A suspect's confession may be traced to factors as disparate as "a prearrest event such as a visit with a minister," Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. at 442 U. S. 220 (STEVENS, J., concurring), or an intervening event such as the exchange of words respondent had with his father. We must conclude that, absent deliberately coercive or improper tactics in obtaining the initial statement, the mere fact that a suspect has made an unwarned admission does not warrant a presumption of compulsion. A subsequent administration of Miranda warnings to a suspect who has given a voluntary but unwarned statement ordinarily should suffice to remove the conditions that precluded admission of the earlier statement. In such circumstances, the finder of fact may reasonably conclude that the suspect made a rational and intelligent choice whether to waive or invoke his rights.
Though belated, the reading of respondent's rights was undeniably complete. McAllister testified that he read the Miranda warnings aloud from a printed card and recorded Elstad's responses. [ Footnote 4 ] There is no question that respondent knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to remain silent before he described his participation in the burglary. It is also beyond dispute that respondent's earlier remark was voluntary, within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment. Neither the environment nor the manner of either "interrogation" was coercive. The initial conversation took place at midday, in the living room area of respondent's own home, with his mother in the kitchen area, a few steps away. Although in retrospect the officers testified that respondent was then in custody, at the time he made his statement he had not been informed that he was under arrest. The arresting officers' testimony indicates that the brief stop in the living room before proceeding to the station house was not to interrogate the suspect, but to notify his mother of the reason for his arrest. App. 9-10.
The State has conceded the issue of custody, and thus we must assume that Burke breached Miranda procedures in failing to administer Miranda warnings before initiating the discussion in the living room. This breach may have been the result of confusion as to whether the brief exchange qualified as "custodial interrogation," or it may simply have reflected Burke's reluctance to initiate an alarming police procedure before McAllister had spoken with respondent's mother. Whatever the reason for Burke's oversight, the incident had none of the earmarks of coercion. See Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U. S. 98, 448 U. S. 109 -110 (1980). Nor did the officers exploit the unwarned admission to pressure respondent into waiving his right to remain silent.
Respondent, however, has argued that he was unable to give a fully informed waiver of his rights because he was unaware that his prior statement could not be used against him. Respondent suggests that Officer McAllister, to cure this deficiency, should have added an additional warning to those given him at the Sheriff's office. Such a requirement is neither practicable nor constitutionally necessary. In many cases, a breach of Miranda procedures may not be identified as such until long after full Miranda warnings are administered and a valid confession obtained. See, e.g., United States v. Bowler, 561 F.2d 1323, 1324-1325 (CA9 1977) (certain statements ruled inadmissible by trial court); United States v. Toral, 536 F.2d 893, 896 (CA9 1976); United States v. Knight, 395 F.2d 971, 974-975 (CA2 1968) (custody unclear). The standard Miranda warnings explicitly inform the suspect of his right to consult a lawyer before speaking. Police officers are ill-equipped to pinch-hit for counsel, construing the murky and difficult questions of when "custody" begins or whether a given unwarned statement will ultimately be held admissible. See Tanner v. Vincent, 541 F.2d 932, 936 (CA2 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1065 (1977).
This Court has never embraced the theory that a defendant's ignorance of the full consequences of his decisions vitiates their voluntariness. See California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. at 463 U. S. 1125 -1126, n. 3; McMann v. Richardson, 397 U. S. 759, 397 U. S. 769 (1970). If the prosecution has actually violated the defendant's Fifth Amendment rights by introducing an inadmissible confession at trial, compelling the defendant to testify in rebuttal, the rule announced in Harrison v. United States, 392 U. S. 219 (1968), precludes use of that testimony on retrial.
Having 'released the spring' by using the petitioner's unlawfully obtained confessions against him, the Government must show that its illegal action did not induce his testimony.
Id. at 392 U. S. 224 -225. But the Court has refused to find that a defendant who confesses, after being falsely told that his codefendant has turned State's evidence, does so involuntarily. Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U. S. 731, 394 U. S. 739 (1969). The Court has also rejected the argument that a defendant's ignorance that a prior coerced confession could not be admitted in evidence compromised the voluntariness of his guilty plea. McMann v. Richardson, supra, at 397 U. S. 769. Likewise, in California v. Beheler, supra, the Court declined to accept defendant's contention that, because he was unaware of the potential adverse consequences of statements he made to the police, his participation in the interview was involuntary. Thus we have not held that the sine qua non for a knowing and voluntary waiver of the right to remain silent is a full and complete appreciation of all of the consequences flowing from the nature and the quality of the evidence in the case.
When police ask questions of a suspect in custody without administering the required warnings, Miranda dictates that the answers received be presumed compelled and that they be excluded from evidence at trial in the State's case in chief. The Court has carefully adhered to this principle, permitting a narrow exception only where pressing public safety concerns demanded. See New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. at 467 U. S. 655 -656. The Court today in no way retreats from the bright-line rule of Miranda. We do not imply that good faith excuses a failure to administer Miranda warnings; nor do we condone inherently coercive police tactics or methods offensive to due process that render the initial admission involuntary and undermine the suspect's will to invoke his rights once they are read to him. A handful of courts have, however, applied our precedents relating to confessions obtained under coercive circumstances to situations involving wholly voluntary admissions, requiring a passage of time or break in events before a second, fully warned statement can be deemed voluntary. Far from establishing a rigid rule, we direct courts to avoid one; there is no warrant for presuming coercive effect where the suspect's initial inculpatory statement, though technically in violation of Miranda, was voluntary. [ Footnote 5 ] The relevant inquiry is whether, in fact, the second statement was also voluntarily made. As in any such inquiry, the finder of fact must examine the surrounding circumstances and the entire course of police conduct with respect to the suspect in evaluating the voluntariness of his statements. The fact that a suspect chooses to speak after being informed of his rights is, of course, highly probative. We find that the dictates of Miranda and the goals of the Fifth Amendment proscription against use of compelled testimony are fully satisfied in the circumstances of this case by barring use of the unwarned statement in the case in chief. No further purpose is served by imputing "taint" to subsequent statements obtained pursuant to a voluntary and knowing waiver. We hold today that a suspect who has once responded to unwarned yet uncoercive questioning is not thereby disabled from waiving his rights and confessing after he has been given the requisite Miranda warnings.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals of Oregon is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
[ Footnote 1 ]
JUSTICE STEVENS expresses puzzlement at our statement that a simple failure to administer Miranda warnings is not, in itself, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Yet the Court so held in New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 467 U. S. 654 (1983), and Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U. S. 433, 417 U. S. 444 (1974). The Miranda Court itself recognized this point when it disclaimed any intent to create a "constitutional straitjacket," and invited Congress and the States to suggest "potential alternatives for protecting the privilege." 384 U.S. at 384 U. S. 467. A Miranda violation does not constitute coercion, but rather affords a bright-line, legal presumption of coercion, requiring suppression of all unwarned statements. It has never been remotely suggested that any statement taken from Mr. Elstad without benefit of Miranda warnings would be admissible.
[ Footnote 2 ]
See, e.g., United States v. Bowler, 561 F.2d 1323, 1326 (CA9 1977); Tanner v. Vincent, 541 F.2d 932 (CA2 1976); United States v. Toral, 536 F.2d 893, 896-897 (CA9 1976); United States v. Knight, 395 F.2d 971, 975 (CA2 1968); State v. Montes, 136 Ariz. 491, 496-497, 667 P.2d 191, 196-197 (1983); State v. Derrico, 181 Conn.151, 166-167, 434 A.2d 356, 365-366, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1064 (1980); State v. Holt, 354 So.2d 888, 890 (Fla.App.), cert. denied, 361 So.2d 832 (Fla.1978); Fried v. State, 42 Md.App. 643, 644-648, 402 A.2d 101, 102-104 (1979); Commonwealth v. White, 353 Mass. 409, 232 N.E.2d 335 (1967); State v. Sickels, 275 N.W.2d 809, 813-814 (Minn.1979); State v. Dakota, 300 Minn. 12, 217 N.W.2d 748 (1974); State v. Raymond, 305 Minn. 160, 170, 232 N.W.2d 879, 886 (1975) (noting common thread in line of cases holding prejudicial coercion not present "just because [defendant] had made an earlier confession which 'let the cat out of the bag'"); Commonwealth v. Chacko, 500 Pa. 571, 580-582, 459 A.2d 311, 316 (1983) ("After being given his Miranda warnings it is clear [defendant] maintained his intention to provide his questioners with his version of the incident"). But see In re Pablo A. C., 129 Cal.App.3d 984, 181 Cal.Rptr. 468 (1982); State v. Hibdon, 57 Ore.App. 509, 645 P.2d 580 (1982); State v. Lavaris, 99 Wash.2d 851, 857-860, 664 P.2d 1234, 1237-1239 (1983).
[ Footnote 3 ]
Most of the 50 cases cited by JUSTICE BRENNAN in his discussion of consecutive confessions concern an initial unwarned statement obtained through overtly or inherently coercive methods which raise serious Fifth Amendment and due process concerns. Without describing each case cited, the following are representative of the situations JUSTICE BRENNAN views as analogous to this case: e.g., Darwin v. Connecticut, 391 U. S. 346 (1968) (suspect interrogated for 48 hours incommunicado while officers denied access to counsel); Beecher v. Alabama, 389 U. S. 35, 389 U. S. 36 (1967) (officer fired rifle next to suspect's ear and said "If you don't tell the truth, I am going to kill you"); Clewis v. Texas, 386 U. S. 707 (1967) (suspect was arrested without probable cause, interrogated for nine days with little food or sleep, and gave three unwarned "confessions" each of which he immediately retracted); Reck v. Pate, 367 U. S. 433, 367 U. S. 439 -440, n. 3 (1961) (mentally retarded youth interrogated incommunicado for a week "during which time he was frequently ill, fainted several times, vomited blood on the floor of the police station, and was twice taken to the hospital on a stretcher"). Typical of the state cases cited in the dissent's discussion are: e.g., Cagle v. State, 45 Ala. App. 3, 4, 221 So.2d 119, 120 (1969) (police interrogated wounded suspect at police station for one hour before obtaining statement, took him to hospital to have his severe wounds treated, only then giving the Miranda warnings; suspect prefaced second statement with "I have already give the Chief a statement and I might as well give one to you, too"), cert. denied, 284 Ala. 727, 221 So.2d 121 (1969); People v. Saiz, 620 P.2d 15 (Colo.1980) (two hours' unwarned custodial interrogation of 16-year-old in violation of state law requiring parent's presence, culminating in visit to scene of crime); People v. Bodner, 75 App.Div.2d 440, 430 N.Y.S.2d 433 (1980) (confrontation at police station and at scene of crime between police and retarded youth with mental age of eight or nine); State v. Badger, 141 Vt. 430, 441, 450 A.2d 336, 343 (1982) (unwarned "close and intense" station house questioning of 15-year-old, including threats and promises, resulted in confession at 1:20 a. m.; court held "[w]arnings... were insufficient to cure such blatant abuse or compensate for the coercion in this case").
JUSTICE BRENNAN cannot seriously mean to equate such situations with the case at bar. Likewise inapposite are the cases the dissent cites concerning suspects whose invocation of their rights to remain silent and to have counsel present were flatly ignored while police subjected them to continued interrogation. See, e.g., United States ex rel. Sanders v. Rowe, 460 F.Supp. 1128 (ND Ill.1978); People v. Braeseke, 25 Cal.3d 691, 602 P.2d 384 (1979), vacated on other grounds, 446 U.S. 932 (1980); Smith v. State, 132 Ga.App. 491, 208 S.E.2d 351 (1974). Finally, many of the decisions JUSTICE BRENNAN claims require that the "taint" be "dissipated" simply recite the stock "cat" and "tree" metaphors but go on to find the second confession voluntary without identifying any break in the stream of events beyond the simple administration of a careful and thorough warning. See cases cited in n 2, supra.
Out of the multitude of decisions JUSTICE BRENNAN cites, no more than half a dozen fairly can be said to suppress confessions on facts remotely comparable to those in the instant case, and some of these decisions involved other elements not present here. See United States v. Pierce, 397 F.2d 128 (CA4 1968) (thorough custodial interrogation at station house); United States v. Pellegrini, 309 F.Supp. 250, 257 (SDNY 1970) (officers induced unwarned suspect to produce "the clinching evidence of his crime"); In re Pablo A. C., 129 Cal.App.3d 984, 181 Cal.Rptr. 468 (1982) (25-minute interrogation of juvenile; court finds causal connection but notes that all prior cited cases relying on "cat-out-of-bag" theory have involved coercion); State v. Lekas, 201 Kan. 579, 442 P.2d 11 (1968) (parolee taken into custody and questioned at courthouse). At least one State Supreme Court cited by JUSTICE BRENNAN that read Miranda as mandating suppression of a subsequent voluntary and fully warned confession did so with express reluctance, convinced that admissibility of a subsequent confession should turn on voluntariness alone. See Brunson v. State, 264 So.2d 817, 819-820 (Miss.1972).
[ Footnote 4 ]
comprehensive, incorporating the warning that any statements could be used in a court of law; the rights to remain silent, consult an attorney at state expense, and interrupt the conversation at any time; and the reminder that any statements must be voluntary. The reverse side of the card carried three questions in boldface and recorded Elstad's responses:
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THESE RIGHTS? 'Yeh' DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS? 'No' HAVING THESE RIGHTS IN MIND, DO YOU WISH TO TALK TO US NOW? 'Yeh I do!'
The card is dated and signed by respondent and by Officer McAllister. A recent high school graduate, Elstad was fully capable of understanding this careful administering of Miranda warnings.
[ Footnote 5 ]
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with an apocalyptic tone, heralds this opinion as dealing a "crippling blow to Miranda. " Post at 470 U. S. 319. JUSTICE BRENNAN not only distorts the reasoning and holding of our decision, but, worse, invites trial courts and prosecutors to do the same.
Header photo: United States Supreme Court. Credit: Patrick McKay / Flickr - CC.