457 U.S. 687 (1982), 81-5152, Taylor v. Alabama

Docket Nº:No. 81-5152
Citation:457 U.S. 687, 102 S.Ct. 2664, 73 L.Ed.2d 314
Party Name:Taylor v. Alabama
Case Date:June 23, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 687

457 U.S. 687 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 2664, 73 L.Ed.2d 314

Taylor

v.

Alabama

No. 81-5152

United States Supreme Court

June 23, 1982

Argued March 23, 1982

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA

Syllabus

Petitioner was arrested on a grocery store robbery charge without a warrant or probable cause, based on an uncorroborated informant's tip, and was taken to the police station, where he was given Miranda warnings, fingerprinted, questioned, and placed in a lineup. After being told that his fingerprints matched those on grocery items handled by one of the participants in the robbery and after a short visit with his girlfriend, petitioner signed a written confession. Over petitioner's objection, the confession was admitted into evidence at his trial in an Alabama state court, and he was convicted. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, holding that the confession should not have been admitted, but was, in turn, reversed by the Alabama Supreme Court.

Held: Petitioner's confession should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal arrest. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590; Dunaway v. New York, 42 U.S. 200. Pp. 689-694.

(a) A confession obtained through custodial interrogation after an illegal arrest should be excluded unless intervening events break the causal connection between the arrest and the confession so that the confession is sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint. Pp. 689-690.

(b) Here, there was no meaningful intervening event. The illegality of the initial arrest was not cured by the facts that six hours elapsed between the arrest and confession; that the confession may have been "voluntary" for Fifth Amendment purposes because Miranda warnings were given; that petitioner was permitted a short visit with his girlfriend; or that the police did not physically abuse petitioner. Nor was the fact that an arrest warrant, based on a comparison of fingerprints, was filed after petitioner had been arrested and while he was being interrogated a significant intervening event, such warrant being [102 S.Ct. 2666] irrelevant to whether the confession was the fruit of an illegal arrest. The initial fingerprints, which were themselves the fruit of the illegal arrest and were used to extract the confession, cannot be deemed sufficient "attenuation" to break the connection between the illegal arrest and the confession merely because they formed the basis for the arrest warrant. Pp. 690-693.

399 So.2d 881, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting

Page 688

opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 694.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the narrow question whether petitioner's confession should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal arrest. The Supreme Court of Alabama held that the evidence was properly admitted. Because the decision below is inconsistent with our decisions in Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200 (1979), and Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975), we reverse.

I

In 1978, a grocery store in Montgomery, Ala., was robbed. There had been a number of robberies in this area, and the police had initiated an intensive manhunt in an effort to apprehend the robbers. An individual who was at that time incarcerated on unrelated charges told a police officer that "he had heard that [petitioner] Omar Taylor was involved in the robbery." App. 4. This individual had never before given similar information to this officer, did not tell the officer where he had heard this information, and did not provide any details of the crime. This tip was insufficient to give

Page 689

the police probable cause to obtain a warrant or to arrest petitioner.

Nonetheless, on the basis of this information, two officers arrested petitioner without a warrant. They told petitioner that he was being arrested in connection with the grocery store robbery, searched him, and took him to the station for questioning. Petitioner was given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). At the station, he was fingerprinted, readvised of his Miranda rights, questioned, and placed in a lineup. The victims of the robbery were unable to identify him in the lineup. The police told petitioner that his fingerprints matched those on some grocery items that had been handled by one of the participants in the robbery. After a short visit with his girlfriend and a male companion, petitioner signed a waiver-of-rights form and executed a written confession. The form and the signed confession were admitted into evidence.

Petitioner objected to the admission of this evidence at his trial. He argued that his warrantless arrest was not supported by probable cause, that he had been involuntarily transported to the police station, and that the confession must be suppressed as the fruit of this illegal arrest. The trial court overruled this objection, and petitioner was convicted. On appeal, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, 399 So.2d 875 (1980), holding that the facts of this case are virtually indistinguishable from those presented to this Court in Dunaway v. New York, supra, and that the confession should not have been admitted into evidence. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals, 399 So.2d 881 (1981), and we granted certiorari, 454 U.S. 963 (1981).

II

In Brown v. Illinois, supra, and Dunaway v. New York, supra, the police arrested suspects without probable cause. The suspects were transported to police headquarters, advised of their Miranda rights, and interrogated. They confessed

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within two hours of their arrest. This Court held that the confessions were [102 S.Ct. 2667] not admissible at trial, reasoning that a confession obtained through custodial interrogation after an illegal arrest should be excluded unless intervening events break the causal connection between the illegal arrest and the confession, so that the confession is "`sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint.'" Brown v. Illinois, supra, at 602 (quoting Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 486 (1963)). See also Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 217. This Court identified several factors that should be considered in determining whether a confession has been purged of the taint of the illegal arrest:

[t]he temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession, the presence of intervening circumstances, . . . and, particularly, the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.

Brown v. Illinois, supra, at 603-404 (citations and footnote omitted); Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. at 218. The State bears the burden of proving that a confession is admissible. Ibid.

In Brown and Dunaway, this Court firmly established that the fact that the confession may be "voluntary" for purposes of the Fifth Amendment, in the sense that Miranda warnings were given and understood, is not by itself sufficient to purge the taint of the illegal arrest. In this situation, a finding of "voluntariness" for purposes of the Fifth Amendment is merely a threshold requirement for Fourth Amendment analysis. See Dunaway v. New York, supra, at 217. The reason for this approach is clear:

[t]he exclusionary rule, . . . when utilized to effectuate the Fourth Amendment, serves interests and policies that are distinct from those it serves under the Fifth

Amendment. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. at 601. If Miranda warnings were viewed as a talisman that cured all Fourth Amendment violations, then the constitutional guarantee against unlawful searches and seizures would be reduced to a mere "`form of words.'" Id. at 603 (quoting Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 648 (1961)).

This case is a virtual replica of both Brown and Dunaway.

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Petitioner was arrested without probable cause in the hope that something would turn up, and he confessed shortly thereafter without any meaningful intervening event. The State's arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. The State begins by focusing on the temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession. It observes that the length of time between the illegal arrest and the confession was six hours in this case, while in Brown and Dunaway, the incriminating statements were obtained within two hours. However, a difference of a few hours is not significant where, as here, petitioner was in police custody, unrepresented by counsel, and he was questioned on several occasions, fingerprinted, and subjected to a lineup. The State has not even demonstrated the amount of this time that was spent in interrogation, arguing only that petitioner

had every opportunity to consider his situation, to organize his thoughts, to contemplate his constitutional rights, and to exercise his free will.

Brief for Respondent 11.

The State points to several intervening events that it argues are sufficient to break the connection between the illegal arrest and petitioner's confession. It observes that petitioner was given Miranda warnings three times. As our foregoing discussion of Brown and Dunaway demonstrates, however, the State's reliance on the giving of Miranda warnings is misplaced. The State also observes that petitioner visited with his girlfriend and a male companion before he confessed. This claim fares no better. According to the officer and petitioner, these two visitors were outside the interrogation room where petitioner was being questioned. After petitioner signed a waiver-of-rights form, he was allowed to meet with these visitors. The State fails to explain how this 5- to 10-minute [102 S.Ct. 2668] visit, after which petitioner immediately recanted his former statements that he knew nothing about the robbery and signed the confession, could possibly have contributed to his ability to consider...

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