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United States Supreme Court

394 U.S. 324

Orozco  v.  Texas

 Argued: Feb. 26, 1969. --- Decided: March 25, 1969

Mr. Justice WHITE, with whom Mr. Justice STEWART joins, dissenting.

This decision carries the rule of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 10 A.L.R.3d 974 (1966), to a new and unwarranted extreme. I continue to believe that the original rule amounted to a 'constitutional straitjacket' on law enforcement which was justified neither by the words or history of the Constitution, nor by any reasonable view of the likely benefits of the rule as against its disadvant ges. 384 U.S., at 526, 86 S.Ct. 1602. Even accepting Miranda, the Court extends the rule here and draws the straitjacket even tighter.

The opinion of the Court in Miranda was devoted in large part to an elaborate discussion of the subtle forms of psychological pressure which could be brought to bear when an accused person is interrogated at length in unfamiliar surroundings. The 'salient features' of the cases decided in Miranda were 'incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere.' 384 U.S., at 445, 86 S.Ct. at 1612. The danger was that in such circumstances the confidence of the prisoner could be eroded by techniques such as successive interrogations by police acting out friendly or unfriendly roles. These techniques are best developed in 'isolation and unfamiliar surroundings,' 384 U.S., at 450, 86 S.Ct. at 1615. And they take time: 'the major qualities an interrogator should possess are patience and perserverance.' Ibid. The techniques of an extended period of isolation, repeated interrogation, cajolery, and trickery often enough produced admissions which were actually coerced in the traditional sense so that new safeguards were deemed essential.

It is difficult to believe that the requirements there laid down were essential to prevent compulsion in every conceivable case of station house interrogation. Where the defendant himself as a lawyer, policeman, professional criminal, or otherwise has become aware of what his right to silence is, it is sheer fancy to assert that his answer to every question asked him is compelled unless he is advised of those rights with which he is already intimately familiar. If there is any warrant to Miranda at all, it rests on the likelihood that in a sufficient number of cases exposure to station house practices will result in compelled confessions and that additional safeguards should be imposed in all cases to prevent possible erosion of Fifth Amendment values. Hence, the detailed ritual which Miranda fashioned.

The Court now extends the same rules to all instances of in-custody questioning outside the station house. Once arrest occurs, the application of Miranda is automatic. The rule is simple but it ignores the purpose of Miranda to guard against what was thought to be the corrosive influenct of practices which station house interrogation makes feasible. The Court wholly ignores the guestion whether similar hazards exist or even are possible when police arrest and interrogate on the spot, whether it be on the street corner or in the home, as in this case. No predicate is laid for believing that practices outside the station house are normally prolonged, carried out in isolation, or often productive of the physical or psychological coercion made so much of in Miranda. It is difficult to imagine the police duplicating in a person's home or on the street those conditions and practices which the Court found prevalent in the station house and which were thought so threatening to the right to silence. Without such a demonstration. Miranda hardly reaches this case or any cases similar to it.

Here, there was no prolonged interrogation, no unfamiliar surroundings, no opportunity for the police to invoke those procedures which moved the majority in Miranda. In fact, the conversation was by all accounts a very brief one. According to uncontradicted testimony, petitioner was awake when the officers entered his room, and they asked him four questions: his name, whether he had been at the El Farleto, whether he owned a pistol, and where it was. He gave his name, said he had been at the El Farleto, and admitted he owned a pistol without hesitation. He was slow in telling where the pistol was, and the question was repeated. He then took the police to the nearby washing machine where the gun was hidden.

It is unquestioned that this sequence of events in their totality would not constitute coercion in the traditional sense or lead any court to view the admissions as involuntary within the meaning of the rules by which we even now adjudicate claims of coercion relating to pre-Miranda trials. And, realistically, had Orozco refused to answer the questions asked of him, it seems most unlikely that prolonged interrogation would have followed in petitioner's own quarters; nothing similar to the station house model invoked by the court would have occurred here. The police had petitioner's name and description, had ample evidence that he had been at the night club and suspected that he had a gun. Surely had he refused to give his name or answer any other questions, they would have arrested him anyway, searched the house and found the gun, which would have been clearly admissible under all relevant authorities. But the Court insists that this case be reversed for failure to give Miranda warnings.

I cannot accept the dilution of the custody requirements of Miranda to this level, where the hazards to the right to silence are so equivocal and unsupported by experience in a recurring number of cases. Orozco was apprehended in the most familiar quarters, the questioning was brief, and no admissions were made which were not backed up by other evidence. This case does not involve the confession of an innocent man, or even of a guilty man from whom a confession has been wrung by physical abuse or the modern psychological methods discussed in Miranda. These are simply the terse remarks of a man who has been caught, almost in the act. Even if there were reason to encourage suspects to consult lawyers to tell them to be silent before quizzing at the station house, there is no reason why police in the field should have to preface every casual question of a suspect with the full panoply of Miranda warnings. The same danger of coercion is simply not present in such circumstances, and the answers to the questions may as often clear a suspect as help convict him. If the Miranda warnings have their intended effect, and the police are able to get no answers from suspects, innocent or guilty, without arresting them, then a great many more innocent men will be making unnecessary trips to the station house. Ultimately it may be necessary to arrest a man, bring him to the police station, and provide a lawyer, just to discover his name. Even if the man is innocent the process will be an unpleasant one.

Since the Court's extension of Miranda's rule takes it into territory where even what rationale there original was disappears, I dissent.

Memorandum of Mr. Justice STEWART.

Although there is much to be said for Mr. Justice HARLAN'S position, I join my Brother WHITE in dissent. It seems to me that those of us who dissented in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 10 A.L.R.3d 974, remain free not only to express our continuing disagreement with that decision, but also to oppose any broadening of its impact.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).