LAWS PAGES

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

  1. During custodial interrogation, the pressure on the suspect to respond flows not from the threat of contempt sanctions, but rather from the "inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467 (1966). Moreover, false testimony does not give rise directly to sanctions (either religious sanctions for lying under oath or prosecutions for perjury), but only indirectly (false testimony might itself prove incriminating, either because it links (albeit falsely) the suspect to the crime or because the prosecution might later prove at trial that the suspect lied to the police, giving rise to an inference of guilty conscience). Despite these differences, however, "[w]e are satisfied that all the principles embodied in the privilege apply to informal compulsion exerted by law-enforcement officers during in-custody questioning." Id., at 461; see id., at 458 (noting "intimate connection between the privilege against self-incrimination and police custodial questioning").
  2. As we explain infra, at 17-18, for purposes of custodial interrogation such a question may be either express, as in this case, or else implied through words or actions reasonably likely to elicit a response.
  3. See also United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 222-223 (1967) ("[T]o utter words purportedly uttered by the robber [and dictated to the suspect by the police] was not compulsion to utter statements of a `testimonial' nature; [the suspect] was required to use his voice as an identifying physical characteristic, not to speak his guilt" because the words did not reflect any facts or beliefs asserted by the suspect); United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 7 (1973) (where suspects were asked to create voice exemplars by reading already-prepared transcripts, the "voice recordings were to be used solely to measure the physical properties of the witnesses' voices, not for the testimonial or communicative content of what was to be said" because the content did not reflect any facts or beliefs asserted by the suspects).
  4. The Commonwealth's protest that it had no investigatory interest in the actual date of Muniz's sixth birthday, see Tr. of Oral Arg. 18, is inapposite. The critical point is that the Commonwealth had an investigatory interest in Muniz's assertion of belief that was communicated by his answer to the question. Putting it another way, the Commonwealth may not have cared about the correct answer, but it cared about Muniz's answer. The incriminating inference stems from the then-existing contents of Muniz's mind as evidenced by his assertion of his knowledge at that time. This distinction is reflected in Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454 (1981), where we held that a defendant's answers to questions during a psychiatric examination were testimonial in nature. The psychiatrist asked a series of questions, some focusing on the defendant's account of the crime. After analyzing both the "statements [the defendant] made, and remarks he omitted," id., at 464, the psychiatrist made a prognosis as to the defendant's "future dangerousness" and testified to this effect at his capital sentencing hearing. The psychiatrist had no investigative interest in whether the defendant's account of the crime and other disclosures were either accurate or complete as a historical matter; rather, he relied on the remarks_both those made and omitted_to infer that the defendant would likely pose a threat to society in the future because of his state of mind. We nevertheless explained that the "Fifth Amendment privilege ... is directly involved here because the State used as evidence against [the defendant] the substance of his disclosures during the pretrial psychiatric examination." Id., at 464-465 (emphasis added). The psychiatrist may have presumed the defendant's remarks to be truthful for purposes of drawing his inferences as to the defendant's state of mind, see South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 561-562, n.12 (1983), but that is true in Muniz's case as well: the incriminating inference of mental confusion is based on the premise that Muniz was responding truthfully to Officer Hosterman's question when he stated that he did not then know the date of his sixth birthday. The state court held that the sixth birthday question constituted an unwarned interrogation for purposes of the privilege against self-incrimination, 377 Pa. Super., at 390, 547 A. 2d, at 423, and that Muniz's answer was incriminating. Ibid. The Commonwealth does not question either conclusion. Therefore, because we conclude that Muniz's response to the sixth birthday question was testimonial, the response should have been suppressed. Cƒ The Commonwealth argues that the seven questions asked by Officer Hosterman just prior to the sixth birthday question_regarding Muniz's name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and current age_did not constitute custodial interrogation as we have defined the term in Miranda and subsequent cases. In Miranda, the Court referred to "interrogation" as actual "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers." 384 U.S., at 444. We have since clarified that definition, finding that the "goals of the Miranda safeguards could be effectuated if those safeguards extended not only to express questioning, but also to `its functional equivalent.
  5. As amicus United States explains, "recognizing a `booking exception' to Miranda does not mean, of course, that any question asked during the booking process falls within that exception. Without obtaining a waiver of the suspect's Miranda rights, the police may not ask questions, even during booking, that are designed to elicit incriminatory admissions." Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 13. See, e.g., United States v. Avery, 717 F. 2d 1020, 1024-1025 (CA6 1983); United States v. Mata- Abundiz, 717 F. 2d 1277, 1280 (CA9 1983); United States v. Glen-Archila, 677 F. 2d 809, 816, n.18 (CA11 1982).
  6. Most of Muniz's utterances were not clearly discernible, though several of them suggested excuses as to why he could not perform the physical tests under these circumstances.
  7. The two exceptions consist of Officer Hosterman's requests that Muniz count aloud from one to nine while performing the "walk-the-line" test and that he count aloud from one to thirty while balancing during the "one leg stand" test. Muniz's counting at the officer's request qualifies as a response to custodial interrogation. However, as Muniz counted accurately (in Spanish) for the duration of his performance on the "one leg stand" test (though he did not complete it), his verbal response to this instruction was not incriminating except to the extent that it exhibited a tendency to slur words, which we have already explained is a nontestimonial component of his response. See supra, at 7-9. Muniz did not count during the "walk and turn" test, and he does not argue that his failure to do so has any independent incriminating significance. We therefore need not decide today whether Muniz's counting (or not) itself was "testimonial" within the meaning of the privilege.
  8. We cannot credit the state court's contrary determination that Muniz's utterances (both during this phase of the proceedings and during the next when he was asked to provide a breath sample) were compelled rather than voluntary. 377 Pa. Super., at 390, 547 A. 2d, at 423. The court did not explain how it reached this conclusion, nor did it cite Innis or any other case defining custodial interrogation.
  9. Muniz does not and cannot challenge the introduction into evidence of his refusal to submit to the breathalyzer test. In South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553 (1983), we held that since submission to a blood test could itself be compelled, see Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966), a State's decision to permit a suspect to refuse to take the test but then to comment upon that refusal at trial did not "compel" the suspect to incriminate himself and hence did not violate the privilege. Neville, supra, at 562-564. We see no reason to distinguish between chemical blood tests and breathalyzer tests for these purposes. Cf. Schmerber, supra, at 765-766, n.9.
  10. We noted in Schmerber that "there may be circumstances in which the pain, danger, or severity of an operation [or other test seeking physical evidence] would almost inevitably cause a person to prefer confession to undergoing the `search,384 U.S., at 765, n.9, and in such cases "if it wishes to compel persons to submit to such attempts to discover evidence, the State may have to forgo the advantage of any testimonial products of administering the test." Ibid. See also Neville, supra, at 563 ("Fifth Amendment may bar the use of testimony obtained when the proffered alternative was to submit to a test so painful, dangerous, or severe, or so violative of religious beliefs, that almost inevitably a person would prefer `confession'"). But Muniz claims no such extraordinary circumstance here.
  11. See n.18, supra.
  12. The parties have not asked us to decide whether any error in this case was harmless. The state court is free, of course, to consider this question upon remand.