Kaupp v. Texas
Annotate this Case
538 U.S. 626 (2003)
OCTOBER TERM, 2002
KAUPP v. TEXAS
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, FOURTEENTH DISTRICT
No. 02-5636. Decided May 5, 2003
After petitioner Kaupp, then 17, was implicated in the murder of a 14year-old girl by the confession of the girl's half brother, detectives tried, but failed, to obtain a warrant to question Kaupp. They then went to his house at 3 a.m.; awakened and handcuffed him; led him, shoeless and dressed only in his underwear, to a patrol car; stopped at the crime scene; and took him to the sheriff's headquarters, where they removed the handcuffs and advised him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. Once presented with the brother's confession, Kaupp admitted to having a part in the crime. He did not acknowledge causing the fatal wound or confess to the murder, for which he was later indicted. Kaupp moved unsuccessfully to suppress his confession as the fruit of an illegal arrest, was convicted, and was sentenced to prison. In affirming, the Texas Court of Appeals found that the arrest occurred after Kaupp's confession; that Kaupp consented to go with the officers when he answered "Okay" to an officer's statement that they needed to talk; that a reasonable person would not have believed that putting on handcuffs before being removed to a patrol car was a significant restriction on his freedom of movement, since this was common practice of the sheriff's office; and that Kaupp did not resist the use of handcuffs or act in a manner consistent with anything but full cooperation. The State Court of Criminal Appeals denied discretionary review.
Held: Kaupp was arrested within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment before the detectives began to question him. 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.''' Florida v. Bostick, 501 U. S. 429, 437. This test is derived from Justice Stewart's opinion in United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U. S. 544, 554, which includes, as examples of circumstances that might indicate a seizure, the threatening presence of several police officers, an officer's display of a weapon, some physical touching of the person, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled. This Court has never sustained 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. The State does not claim to have had probable cause here, and an application of the test just mentioned shows that Kaupp was arrested, there being evidence of everyone of Mendenhall's probative circumstances. A 17-year-old boy was awakened at 3 a.m. by at least three police officers, placed in handcuffs, and taken in his underwear and without shoes in a patrol car to the crime scene and then to the sheriff's offices, where he was taken into an interrogation room and questioned. The contrary reasons mentioned by the state courts-his "Okay" response, that the sheriff's office routinely handcuffed individuals when transporting them, and that Kaupp did not resist the handcuffs or act uncooperatively-are no answer to the facts here. Because Kaupp was arrested before he was questioned, and because the State does not claim that the sheriff's department had probable cause to detain him at that point, his confession must be suppressed unless the State can show that it was an act of free will sufficient to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion. The only relevant consideration supporting the State is the observance of Miranda, but such warnings alone cannot always break the causal connection between the illegality and the confession, Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590, 603. All other relevant considerations-the temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession, the presence of intervening circumstances, and the official misconduct's purpose and flagrancy-point the opposite way. Unless, on remand, the State can point to testimony undisclosed on this record, and weighty enough to carry its burden despite the clear force of the evidence here, the confession must be suppressed.
Certiorari granted; vacated and remanded.
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 Sheriff's Department learned she had had a sexual relationship with her 19year-old half brother, who had been in the company of petitioner Robert Kaupp, then 17 years old, on the day of the girl's disappearance. On January 26th, deputy sheriffs questioned the brother and Kaupp at headquarters; Kaupp was cooperative and was permitted to leave, but the brother
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