U.S. v. Causey

Decision Date17 December 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-3469,86-3469
Citation1987 WL 23,834 F.2d 1179
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reginald James CAUSEY, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Burton P. Guidry, Baton Rouge, La. (court appointed), for defendant-appellant.

Richard B. Launey, Asst. U.S. Atty., Stanford O. Bardwell, Jr., U.S. Atty., Baton Rouge, La., Mervyn Hamburg, Atty., App. Sect., Crim. Div., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.


HIGGINBOTHAM, DAVIS, and JONES, Circuit Judges. *

GEE, Circuit Judge:

Today the issue before our court en banc is whether a voluntary confession to bank robbery, given after reiterated Miranda warnings, should be excluded from evidence because the police had arrested the defendant under an outstanding arrest warrant for a different crime, intending to question him solely about the robbery to which he confessed. Our panel held that although the officers arrested Causey on an admittedly valid warrant, and although they did so only after specifically verifying the warrant's validity with the judge who had issued it, their true and sole intent in making the arrest--to interrogate him about a different and more serious crime--rendered his confession to that crime "as tainted as if it had been obtained by coercion, brutality, or any other unconstitutional lever used to pry a confession from him." U.S. v. Causey, 818 F.2d 354, 362-63 (5th Cir.1987). Thus to the Constitution's requirement that to be admitted in evidence a confession must be knowing and voluntary, 1 and to the Supreme Court's that, if custodial, it be given only after the Miranda formula of rights and warnings had been recited, our panel added an additional requirement that the police who took the confessor lawfully into custody must not have done so with an improper motive--whether their actions in the premises would have been any different in the absence of such a motive or not. The panel held squarely that conduct otherwise lawful in every respect on the part of police is rendered unconstitutional by their irregular subjective intent alone. Sensing a possible conflict between this holding and sound constitutional policy, as well as possible inconsistency with the decision of the Supreme Court in Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978), 2 we took the case en banc; and we now reverse the action of the panel and affirm that of the trial court. The facts are fully and accurately set out in the panel opinion, and we reiterate them only so far as is necessary to an understanding of our holding.


An anonymous tipster identified appellant Causey as the robber of a Baton Rouge bank, but the city police believed that they lacked probable cause to arrest and interrogate him about that crime. 3 Casting about for means to apprehend and question him, they discovered an outstanding warrant for Causey's arrest, issued some years earlier when he had failed to appear in court to answer a petty theft charge. After verifying the warrant's continued validity with the issuing judge, the city officers arrested Causey, gave him Miranda warnings, interrogated him about the bank robbery, and called in the FBI. Some time and several Miranda warnings later, Causey made a voluntary confession of robbing the bank.

At a hearing on Causey's motion to suppress the confession, one of the city officers testified that their only reason for arresting Causey on the warrant was "to take him downtown and continue [the] investigation of the bank robbery...." Convicted by a jury, Causey appealed and our panel reversed for the reason given earlier: that the exclusive motive to question him about the robbery with which the misdemeanor warrant was executed rendered the arrest "pretextual" and "tainted" his confession despite the Miranda warnings that had preceded it and despite its voluntary character. On both reason and authority, we disagree.


Any consideration of the facts in this appeal must commence with a recognition that the police who arrested Causey were empowered to do so by a valid warrant and that they took no action that they were not legally authorized to take. Nor is it suggested that anything improper occurs when police officers question a suspect who is under arrest for one crime about others of which he may be guilty or have knowledge. 4 Thus, on the reasoning of the panel opinion, had the arresting police done exactly the same things with Causey from start to finish as they did in fact, but had they in addition entertained a subjective intention at the time of his arrest to question him about the lesser offense for which the arrest warrant issued as well as about the bank robbery, his confession to the robbery would have been properly admitted at his trial. But since one of the arresting officers testified that their only purpose in arresting Causey was to investigate the robbery, the panel declares that his confession is just as tainted as if it had been coerced by torture. For several reasons, we decline to countenance such a rule.

In the first place, the panel's rule turns on an irrelevant intent: that of the police. It is the prosecutor 's intent that determines whether one who has been arrested on a warrant is prosecuted for that offense, not that of the police; and the panel's holding is made ironic by the fact Causey was prosecuted, convicted, and punished for the non-appearance offense on which the warrant was issued and for which he was "pretextually" arrested. It is difficult to see why a lack of police interest in seeing him prosecuted on the non-appearance warrant--an indifference that had neither force, basis nor consequence--should be held to be of such an overmastering effect. Especially is this so when the actions taken by the police were entirely consistent with the results in both prosecutions: Causey was convicted of both non-appearance (in state court) and of bank robbery (in federal court) and punished for each offense. The only supposed defect in the entire process was a defective intent on the part of the police regarding a decision that was not theirs to make, a lack of interest by them in the prosecution of Causey on the offense for which the warrant issued--yet a lack that was, as things fell out, irrelevant and devoid of consequence.

In the second, it is hard to see what police misconduct it is that is sought to be deterred by such a ruling: Is it acting to execute a valid warrant? to investigate a bank robbery by all means at hand not unlawful? or perhaps to question a suspect without coercion or force after giving proper Miranda warnings? In fact, the only conduct likely to be deterred by such a rule as that confected by the panel would be a prosecutor's act of leniency in omitting to prosecute the less serious offense on which the warrant had issued, a matter of small consequence to the police or prosecutor and of further detriment to the arrestee. 5

And finally, one may well question the motivational requirement which the panel undertakes to add to the qualifications laid down by the Supreme Court in Miranda for admissibility of a confession: voluntariness and administration of the warnings required by that decision. To inject a new constitutional issue of subjective police intent into every case in which a suspect is arrested for one offense and later confesses to another (or others) seems to us unwarranted and to rest on no apparent constitutional basis or foundation. A consideration of that supposed basis and of the cases discussed by the panel opinion appears in the following section.


The panel opinion maintains, in reliance on what it describes as a "continuing line of Fifth Circuit authority," that unless an arrest is made with the appropriate subjective intent, it is invalid and whatever results from it is "tainted." The line which it offers, however, consists of three cases, the most recent of which is over nine years old and the earliest of which was handed down in 1968. 6 Since the most recent of these was handed down in 1978, however, the Supreme Court--in three cases of its own--has made plain that it is irrelevant what subjective intent moves an officer in taking such an action as this; what signifies is the officer's actions, objectively viewed in light of the circumstances confronting him. In the face of these clear pronouncements, we are not authorized to persist in our former rule, if such it was, to the contrary.

The first of the Court's relevant triad is Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978). 7 There a central complaint on appeal by convicted narcotics dealers was that police had deliberately disregarded the minimization requirements of wiretap law, intercepting virtually all calls on the tapped line when only 40 percent of them were drug-related. The district court ordered suppression of the intercepted calls and all derivative evidence because it was offended by the policemen's state of mind, relying largely on the fact that they knew of the minimization requirement but made no attempt to comply with it, an attitude which the court stigmatized as " 'unreasonable ... even if every intercepted call were narcotic related.' " 436 U.S. at 134, 98 S.Ct. at 1721 (quoting the district court opinion; emphasis added). A more categorical statement can scarcely be imagined of resolution on the part of the court to punish the public for naughty intent on the part of the police--whether or not that mere intent produced any discernible consequence--by freeing the criminal.

In the course of upholding a reversal of the district court, the Supreme Court emphatically rejected, albeit in dicta as regards the Fourth Amendment, such a subjective view....

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