488 U.S. 9 (1988), 88-161, Pennsylvania v. Bruder

Docket Nº:No. 88-161
Citation:488 U.S. 9, 109 S.Ct. 205, 102 L.Ed.2d 172
Party Name:Pennsylvania v. Bruder
Case Date:October 31, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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488 U.S. 9 (1988)

109 S.Ct. 205, 102 L.Ed.2d 172

Pennsylvania

v.

Bruder

No. 88-161

United States Supreme Court

Oct. 31, 1988

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPERIOR

COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Syllabus

After his vehicle was stopped by a police officer, respondent Bruder took field sobriety tests and, in answer to questions, stated that he had been drinking. He failed the tests, and was then arrested and given Miranda warnings. At his trial, his statements and conduct before arrest were admitted into evidence, and he was convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the conviction on the ground that the statements that Bruder uttered during the roadside questioning were elicited through custodial interrogation, and should have been suppressed for lack of Miranda warnings.

Held: Bruder was not entitled to a recitation of his constitutional rights prior to arrest, and his roadside responses to questioning were admissible. The rule of Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 -- that ordinary traffic stops do not involve custody for the purposes of Miranda -- governs this case. Although unquestionably a seizure, this stop had the same noncoercive aspects as the Berkemer detention: a single police officer asking Bruder a modest number of questions and requesting him to perform simple tests in a location visible to passing motorists.

Certiorari granted; 365 Pa.Super. 106, 528 A.2d 1385, reversed.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

Because the decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in this case is contrary to Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984), we grant the petition for a writ of certiorari, and reverse.

In the early morning of January 19, 1985, Officer Steve Shallis of the Newton Township, Pennsylvania, Police Department observed respondent Thomas Bruder driving very erratically along State Highway 252. Among other traffic violations, he ignored a red light. Shallis stopped Bruder's vehicle. Bruder left his vehicle, approached Shallis, and when asked for his registration card, returned to his car to obtain it. Smelling alcohol and observing Bruder's stumbling movements, Shallis administered field sobriety tests,

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including asking Bruder to recite the alphabet. Shallis also inquired about alcohol. Bruder answered that he had been drinking, and was returning home. Bruder failed the sobriety tests, whereupon Shallis arrested him, placed him in the police car, and gave him Miranda warnings. Bruder was later convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. At his trial, his statements and conduct prior to his arrest were admitted into evidence. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed, 365 Pa.Super. 106, 528 A.2d 1385 (1987), on the ground that the above statements Bruder had uttered during the roadside questioning were elicited through custodial interrogation, and should have been suppressed for lack of Miranda warnings. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the State's appeal application.

In Berkemer v. McCarty, supra, which involved facts strikingly similar to those in this case, the Court concluded that the

noncoercive aspect of ordinary traffic stops prompts us to hold that persons temporarily detained pursuant to such stops are not "in custody" for the purposes of Miranda.

468 U.S. at 440. The Court reasoned that, although the stop was unquestionably a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, such traffic stops typically are brief, unlike a prolonged station house interrogation. Second, the Court emphasized that traffic stops commonly occur in the "public view," in an atmosphere far "less `police dominated' than that surrounding the kinds of interrogation at issue in Miranda itself." Id. at 438-439. The detained motorist's "freedom of action [was not] curtailed to `a degree associated with formal arrest.'" Id. at 440 (citing California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983)). Accordingly, he was not entitled to a recitation of his constitutional rights prior to arrest, and his roadside responses to questioning were admissible.1

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The facts in this record, which Bruder does not contest, reveal the same noncoercive aspects as the Berkemer detention:

a single police officer ask[ing] respondent a modest number of questions and request[ing] him to perform a simple balancing test at a location visible to passing motorists.

468 U.S. at 442 (footnote omitted).2 Accordingly, Berkemer's rule, that ordinary traffic stops do not involve custody for purposes of Miranda, governs this case.3 The judgment of the Pennsylvania Superior Court that evidence was inadmissible for lack of Miranda warnings is reversed.

It is so ordered.

MARSHALL, J., dissenting

JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.

I agree with JUSTICE STEVENS that the Court should not disturb the decision of the court below, and accordingly I join his dissent. I write separately to note my continuing belief that it is unfair to litigants and damaging to the integrity and accuracy of this Court's decisions to reverse a decision summarily without the benefit of full briefing on the merits of

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the question decided. Rhodes v. Stewart, ante p. 1 (MARSHALL, J.,...

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