Rhode Island v. Innis
Annotate this Case
446 U.S. 291 (1980)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291 (1980)
Rhode Island v. Innis
Argued October 30, 1979
Decided May 12, 1980
446 U.S. 291
Shortly after a taxicab driver, who had been robbed by a man wielding a sawed-off shotgun, identified a picture of respondent as that of his assailant, a Providence, R.I., patrolman spotted respondent, who was unarmed, on the street, arrested him, and advised him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. When other police officers arrived at the arrest scene, respondent was twice again advised of his Miranda rights, and he stated that he understood his rights and wanted to speak with a lawyer. Respondent was then placed in a police car to be driven to the central station in the company of three officers, who were instructed not to question respondent or intimidate him in any way. While en route to the station, two of the officers engaged in a conversation between themselves concerning the missing shotgun. One of the officers stated that there were "a lot of handicapped children running around in this area" because a school for such children was located nearby, and "God forbid one of them might find a weapon with shells and they might hurt themselves." Respondent interrupted the conversation, stating that the officers should turn the car around so he could show them where the gun was located. Upon returning to the scene of the arrest where a search for the shotgun was in progress, respondent was again advised of his Miranda rights, replied that he understood those rights, but that he "wanted to get the gun out of the way because of the kids in the area in the school," and then led the police to the shotgun. Before trial on charges of kidnaping, robbery, and murder of another taxicab driver, the trial court denied respondent's motion to suppress the shotgun and the statement he had made to the police regarding its discovery, ruling that respondent had waived his Miranda rights, and respondent was subsequently convicted. The Rhode Island Supreme Court set aside the conviction and held that respondent was entitled to a new trial, concluding that respondent had invoked his Miranda right to counsel and that, contrary to Miranda's mandate that, in the absence of counsel, all custodial interrogation then cease, the police officers in the vehicle had "interrogated" respondent without a valid waiver of his right to counsel.
Held: Respondent was not "interrogated" in violation of his right under Miranda to remain silent until he had consulted with a lawyer. Pp. 446 U. S. 297-303.
(a) 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. Pp. 446 U. S. 298-302.
(b) Here, there was no express questioning of respondent; the conversation between the two officers was, at least in form, nothing more than a dialogue between them to which no response from respondent was invited. Moreover, respondent was not subjected to the "functional equivalent" of questioning, since it cannot be said that the officers should have known that their conversation was reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from respondent. There is nothing in the record to suggest that the officers were aware that respondent was peculiarly susceptible to an appeal to his conscience concerning the safety of handicapped children, or that the police knew that respondent was unusually disoriented or upset at the time of his arrest. Nor does the record indicate that, in the context of a brief conversation, the officers should have known that respondent would suddenly be moved to make a self-incriminating response. While it may be said that respondent was subjected to "subtle compulsion," it must also be established that a suspect's incriminating response was the product of words or actions on the part of the police that they should have known were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response, which was not established here. Pp. 446 U. S. 302-303.
120 R.I. ___, 391 A.2d 1158, vacated and remanded.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 446 U. S. 304. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 446 U. S. 304. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 446 U. S. 305. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 446 U. S. 307.