LAWS PAGES

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U.S. Supreme Court
PENNSYLVANIA v. MUNIZ, 496 U.S. 582 (1990)

  1. During the second phase of the videotaped proceedings, Officer Hosterman asked Muniz to perform the same three sobriety tests that he had earlier performed at roadside prior to his arrest: the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" test, the "walk and turn" test, and the "one leg stand" test. While Muniz was attempting to comprehend Officer Hosterman's instructions and then perform the requested sobriety tests, Muniz made several audible and incriminating statements.[fn15] Muniz argued to the state court that both the videotaped performance of the physical tests themselves and the audiorecorded verbal statements were introduced in violation of Miranda.

    We disagree. Officer Hosterman's dialogue with Muniz concerning the physical sobriety tests consisted primarily of carefully scripted instructions as to how the tests were to be performed. These instructions were not likely to be perceived as calling for any verbal response and therefore were not "words or actions" constituting custodial interrogation, with two narrow exceptions not relevant here.[fn16] The dialogue also contained limited and carefully worded inquiries as to whether Muniz understood those intructions, but these focused inquiries were necessarily "attendant to" the police procedure held by the court to be legitimate. Hence, Muniz's incriminating utterances during this phase of the videotaped proceedings were "voluntary" in the sense that they were not elicited in response to custodial interrogation.[fn17] See South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 564, n.15 (1983) (drawing analogy to "police request to submit to fingerprinting or photography" and holding that police inquiry whether suspect would submit to blood-alcohol test was not "interrogation within the meaning of Miranda").

    Similarly, we conclude that Miranda does not require suppression of the statements Muniz made when asked to submit to a breathalyzer examination. Officer Deyo read Muniz a prepared script explaining how the test worked, the nature of Pennsylvania's Implied Consent Law, and the legal consequences that would ensue should he refuse. Officer Deyo then asked Muniz whether he understood the nature of the test and the law and whether he would like to submit to the test. Muniz asked Officer Deyo several questions concerning the legal consequences of refusal, which Deyo answered directly, and Muniz then commented upon his state of inebriation. 377 Pa. Super., at 387, 547 A. 2d, at 422. After offering to take the test only after waiting a couple of hours or drinking some water, Muniz ultimately refused.[fn18]

    We believe that Muniz's statements were not prompted by an interrogation within the meaning of Miranda, and therefore the absence of Miranda warnings does not require suppression of these statements at trial.[fn19] As did Officer Hosterman when administering the three physical sobriety tests, see supra, at 19-20, Officer Deyo carefully limited her role to providing Muniz with relevant information about the breathalyzer test and the implied consent law. She questioned Muniz only as to whether he understood her instructions and wished to submit to the test. These limited and focused inquiries were necessarily "attendant to" the legitimate police procedure, see Neville, supra, at 564, n.15, and were not likely to be perceived as calling for any incriminating response.[fn20]
  2. We agree with the state court's conclusion that Miranda requires suppression of Muniz's response to the question regarding the date of his sixth birthday, but we do not agree that the entire audio portion of the videotape must be suppressed.[fn21] Accordingly, the court's judgment reversing Muniz's conviction is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.