420 U.S. 714 (1975), 73-1452, Oregon v. Hass

Docket Nº:No. 73-1452
Citation:420 U.S. 714, 95 S.Ct. 1215, 43 L.Ed.2d 570
Party Name:Oregon v. Hass
Case Date:March 19, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 714

420 U.S. 714 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 1215, 43 L.Ed.2d 570




No. 73-1452

United States Supreme Court

March 19, 1975

Argued January 21, 1975



When a suspect in police custody has been given and accepts the full warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, and later states that he would like to telephone a lawyer, but is told he cannot do so until reaching the station, and he then provides inculpatory information, such information is admissible in evidence at the suspect's trial solely for impeachment purposes after he has taken the stand and testified to the contrary knowing such information had been ruled inadmissible for the prosecution's case in chief. Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222. Pp. 720-724.

267 Ore. 489, 517 P.2d 671, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 724. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 726. DOUGLAS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents a variation of the fact situation encountered by the Court in Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971): when a suspect, who is in the custody of a state police officer, has been given full Miranda warnings1

Page 715

and accepts them, and then later states that he would like to telephone a lawyer but is told that this cannot be done until the officer and the suspect reach the station, and the suspect then provides inculpatory information, is that information admissible in evidence solely for impeachment purposes after the suspect has taken the stand and testified contrarily to the inculpatory information, or is it inadmissible under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?


The facts are not in dispute. In August, 1972, bicycles were taken from two residential garages in the Moyina Heights area of Klamath Falls, Ore. Respondent Hass, in due course, was indicted for burglary in the first degree, in violation of Ore.Rev.Stat. § 164.225, with respect to the bicycle taken from the garage attached to one of the residences, a house occupied by a family named Lehman. He was not charged with the other burglary.

On the day of the thefts, Officer Osterholme of the Oregon State Police traced an automobile license number to the place where Hass lived. The officer met Hass there and placed him under arrest. App. 15. At Hass' trial, Osterholme testified in camera that, after giving Hass the warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467-473 (1966), he asked Hass about the theft of the bicycle taken from the Lehman residence. Hass admitted that he had taken two bicycles, but stated that he was not sure, at first, which one Osterholme was talking about. App. 10. He further said that he had returned one of them, and that the other was where he had left it. Id. at 12. Osterholme and Hass then departed in a patrol car for the site. Id. at 12-13. On the way, Hass opined that he "was in a lot of trouble," id. at 13, 26, and would like to telephone his attorney. Id. at 13. Osterholme replied that he could telephone the lawyer

Page 716

"as soon as we got [95 S.Ct. 1218] to the office." Ibid. Thereafter, respondent pointed out a place in the brush where the bicycle was found.

The court ruled that statements made by Hass after he said he wanted to see an attorney, and his identification of the bicycle's location, were not admissible. The prosecution then elicited from Osterholme, in its case in chief before the jury, that Hass had admitted to the witness that he had taken two bicycles that day because he needed money, that he had given one back, and that the other had been recovered. Id. at 31-32.

Later in the trial, Hass took the stand. He testified that he and two friends, Walker and Lee, were "just riding around" in his Volkswagen truck, id. at 42; that the other two got out and respondent drove slowly down the street; that Lee suddenly reappeared, tossed a bicycle into the truck, and "ducked down" on the floor of the vehicle, id. at 44; that respondent did not know that Lee "stole it at first," id. at 45; that it was his own intention to get rid of the bike; that they were overtaken by a jeep occupied by Mr. Lehman and his son; that the son pointed out Lee as "that's the guy," id. at 46; that Lee then returned the bike to the Lehmans; that respondent drove on and came upon Walker "sitting down there and he had this other bicycle by him," and threw it into the truck, id. at 48; that he, respondent, went "out by Washburn Way and I threw it as far as I could,"2 ibid.; that later he told police he had stolen two bicycles, id. at 49; that he had had no idea what Lee and Walker were going to do, id. at 61; and that he did not see any of the

Page 717

bikes being taken and did not know "where those residences were located," id. at 63.

The prosecution then recalled Officer Osterholme in rebuttal. He testified that Hass had pointed out the two houses from which the bicycles were taken. Id. at 65. On cross-examination, the officer testified that, prior to so doing, Hass had told Osterholme "that he knew where the bicycles came from, however, he didn't know the exact street address." Id. at 66. Osterholme also stated that Lee was along at the time, but that Lee "had some difficulty" in identifying the residences "until Mr. Hass actually pointed them," and then "he recognized it." Id. at 78.

The trial court, at the request of the defense, then advised the jury that the portion of Officer Osterholme's testimony describing the statement made by Hass to him

may not be used by you as proof of the Defendant's guilt . . . , but you may consider that testimony only as it bears on the [credibility] of the Defendant as a witness when he testified on the witness stand.

Id. at 79.

Respondent again took the stand, and said that Osterholme's testimony that he took him out to the residences and that respondent pointed out the houses was "wrong." Id. at 81.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Hass received a sentence of two years' probation and a $250 fine. The Oregon Court of Appeals, feeling itself bound by the earlier Oregon decision in State v. Brewton, 247 Ore. 241, 422 P.2d 581, cert. denied, 387 U.S. 943 (1967), a pre-Harris case, reversed on the ground that Hass' statements were improperly used to impeach his testimony. 13 Ore.App. 368, 374, 510 P.2d 852, 855 (1973). On petition for review, the Supreme Court of Oregon, by a 4-to-3 vote, affirmed. 267 Ore. 489, 517 P.2d 671 (1973). The court reasoned that, in a situation of proper Miranda warnings,

Page 718

as here, the police have nothing to lose, and perhaps could gain something, for impeachment purposes, by continuing their interrogation after the warnings; thus there is no deterrence. In contrast, the court said, where warnings are yet to be [95 S.Ct. 1219] given, there is an element of deterrence, for the police "will not take the chance of losing incriminating evidence for their case in chief by not giving adequate warnings." Id. at 492, 517 P.2d at 673. The three dissenters perceived no difference between the two situations. Id. at 493 495, 517 P.2d at 674. Because the result was in conflict with that reached by the North Carolina court in State v. Bryant, 280 N.C. 551, 554 556, 187 S.E.2d 111, 113-114 (1972),3 and because it bore upon the reach of our decision in Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (1971), we granted certiorari. 419 U.S. 823 (1974). We reverse.


The respondent raises some preliminary arguments. We mention them in passing:

Page 719

1. Hass suggests that, "when state law is more restrictive against the prosecution than federal law," this Court has no power "to compel a state to conform to federal law." Brief for Respondent 1. This, apparently, is proffered as a reference to our expressions that a State is free as a matter of its own law to impose greater restrictions on police activity than those this Court holds to be necessary upon federal constitutional standards. See, e.g., Cooper v. California, 386 U.S. 58, 62 (1967); Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 60-61 (1968). See also State v. Kaluna, 55 Haw. 361, 368-369, 520 P.2d 51, 58-59 (1974). But, of course, a State may not impose such greater restrictions as a matter of federal constitutional law when this Court specifically refrains from imposing them.4 See Smayda v. United States, 352 F.2d 251, 253 (CA9 1965), cert. denied, 382 U.S. 981 (1966); Aftanase v. Economy Baler Co., 343 F.2d 187, 193 (CA8 1965).

Although Oregon has a constitutional provision against compulsory self-incrimination in any criminal prosecution, Ore.Const., Art. 1, § 12, the present case was decided by the Oregon courts on Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. The decision did not rest on the Oregon Constitution or state law; neither was cited. The fact that the Oregon courts found it necessary to attempt

Page 720

to distinguish Harris v. New York, supra, reveals the federal basis.

2. Hass suggests that a decision by a State's highest court in favor of a criminal defendant is not reviewable here. This, we assume, is a standing argument advanced on the theory that the State is not aggrieved by the Oregon judgment. Surely, a holding that, for constitutional reasons, the prosecution may not utilize otherwise relevant evidence makes the State an aggrieved party for purposes of review. This should be self-evident, but cases such as California v. Green, 399 U.S. 149 (1970), manifest its validity.

3. State v. Brewton, 247 Ore. 241, 422 P.2d 581 (1967), by which the Oregon Court of Appeals in the present case felt itself bound, merits comment. There, the Oregon court, again by a 4-to-3...

To continue reading