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Dunaway v. New York

Citation. 442 U.S. 200, 99 S. Ct. 2248, 60 L. Ed. 2d 824 (1979)
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Brief Fact Summary.

An individual was taken into police custody, but was told he was not under arrest. However, if he tried to leave, the police would have restrained him.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

“Rochester police violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when, without probable cause, they seized petitioner and transported him to the police station for interrogation.”


The owner of a pizza parlor was killed during an attempted robbery. A few months later, the police received a tip from an informant implicating the Petitioner, Dunaway (the “Petitioner”). A detective questioned the informant and did not learn enough to get an arrest warrant, but nonetheless that Petitioner be brought in. The Petitioner was taken into custody and told he was not under arrest, but he would have been restrained physically if he tried to leave. He was driven to a police station, put in an interrogation room and then mirandized. The Petitioner waived his right to counsel and incriminated himself via statements and drawings.
The Petitioner filed motions to suppress the drawings and statements at trial and the motions were denied. The state Appellate Division and Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion. The Supreme Court of the United States vacated the judgment against the Petitioner and remanded in light of the decision in [Brown v. Illinois].
The Petitioner here, like in Brown, “made inculpatory statements after receiving Miranda warnings during custodial interrogation following his seizure – in that case a formal arrest – on less than probable cause.” Also, the petitioner in Brown’s motion to suppress was denied and the statements were used to convict him. The Supreme Court held in Brown that the lower court “erred in adopting a per se rule that Miranda warnings in and of themselves sufficed to cure the Fourth Amendment violation; rather the Court held that in order to use such statements, the prosecution must show not only that the statements meet the Fifth Amendment voluntariness standard, but also that the causal connection between the statements and the illegal arrest is broken sufficiently to purge the primary taint of the illegal arrest in light of the distinct policies and interests of the Fourth Amendment.”
The New York Court of Appeals directed that the trial court “to make further factual findings as to whether there was a detention of petitioner, whether the police had probable cause, ‘and, in the event there was a detention and probable cause is not found for such detention, to determine the further question as to whether the making of the confessions was rendered infirm by the illegal arrest.’ ” The trial court found that the motion to suppress should have been granted, but the Appellate Division reversed. The state Court of Appeals dismissed the Petitioner’s application for leave to appeal.


“[W]hether the Rochester police violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when, without probable cause to arrest, they took petitioner into custody, transported him to the police station, and detained him there for interrogation[?]”
“[W]hether the connection between this unconstitutional police conduct and the incriminating statements and sketches obtained during petitioner’s illegal detention was nevertheless sufficiently attenuated to permit the use at trial of the statements and sketches[?]”


The Petitioner was “seized” in a Fourth Amendment sense, but the police lacked probable cause to arrest petitioner before his incriminating statement during the interrogation. “Terry for the first time recognized an exception to the requirement that Fourth Amendment seizures of persons must be based on probable cause.” “That case involved a brief, on-the-spot stop on the street and a frisk for weapons, a situation that did not fit comfortably within the traditional concept of an ‘arrest.’ Nevertheless, the Court held that even this type of ‘necessarily swift action predicated upon the on-the-spot observations of the officer on the beat’ constituted a ‘serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity and arouse strong resentment,’ and therefore ‘must be tested by the Fourth Amendment’s general proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ However, since the intrusion involved in a ‘stop and frisk’ was so much less severe than th
at involved in traditional ‘arrests,’ the Court declined to stretch the concept of ‘arrest’ – and the general rule requiring probable cause to make arrests ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment – to cover such intrusions. Instead, the Court treated the stop-and-frisk intrusion as a sui generis ‘rubric of police conduct,’ and to determine the justification necessary to make this specially limited intrusion ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment, the Court balanced the limited violation of individual privacy involved against the opposing interests in crime prevention and detection and in the police officer’s safety.’ ”
“Thus, Terry departed from traditional Fourth Amendment analysis in two respects. First, it defined a special category of Fourth Amendment ‘seizures’ so substantially less intrusive than arrests that the general rule requiring probable cause to make Fourth Amendment ‘seizures’ reasonable could be replaced by a balancing test. Second, the application of this balancing test led the Court to approve this narrowly defined less intrusive seizure on grounds less rigorous than probable cause, but only for the purpose of a pat-down for weapons.’ ”
“In contrast to the brief and narrowly circumscribed intrusions involved in those cases, the detention of petitioner [in this case] was in important respects indistinguishable from a traditional arrest. Petitioner was not questioned briefly where he was found. Instead, he was taken from a neighbor’s home to a police car, transported to a police station, and placed in an interrogation room. He was never informed that he was ‘free to go’; indeed, he would have been physically restrained if he had refused to accompany the officers or had tried to escape their custody. The application of the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause does not depend on whether an intrusion of this magnitude is termed an ‘arrest’ under state law. The mere facts that petitioner was not told he was under arrest, was not ‘booked,’ and would not have had an arrest record if the interrogation had proved fruitless, while not insignificant for all purposes, obviously do not make petitioner’s seizure even
roughly analogous to the narrowly defined intrusions involved in Terry and its progeny. Indeed, any ‘exception’ that could cover a seizure as intrusive as that in this case would threaten to swallow the general rule that Fourth Amendment seizures are ‘reasonable’ only if based on probable cause.”
“[D]etention for custodial interrogation – regardless of its label – intrudes so severely on interests protected by the Fourth Amendment as necessarily to trigger the traditional safeguards against illegal arrest.”
“Consequently, although a confession after proper Miranda warnings may be found ‘voluntary’ for purposes of the Fifth Amendment, this type of ‘voluntariness’ is merely a ‘threshold requirement’ for Fourth Amendment analysis. Indeed, if the Fifth Amendment has been violated, the Fourth Amendment issue would not have to be reached.”
“Beyond this threshold requirement, Brown articulated a test designed to vindicate the ‘distinct policies and interests of the Fourth Amendment.’ Following Wong Sun, the Court eschewed any per se or ‘but for’ rule, and identified the relevant inquiry as ‘whether Brown’s statements were obtained by exploitation of the illegality of his arrest,’ Brown’s focus on ‘the causal connection between the illegality and the confession,’ reflected the two policies behind the use of the exclusionary rule to effectuate the Fourth Amendment. When there is a close causal connection between the illegal seizure and the confession, not only is exclusion of the evidence more likely to deter similar police misconduct in the future, but use of the evidence is more likely to compromise the integrity of the courts.”
“Brown identified several factors to be considered ‘in determining whether the confession is obtained by exploitation of an 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 . . . . And the burden of showing admissibility rests, of course, on the prosecution.’ ”
“The situation in this case is virtually a replica of the situation in Brown. Petitioner was also admittedly seized without probable cause in the hope that something might turn up, and confessed without any intervening event of significance.” “No intervening events broke the connection between petitioner’s illegal detention and his confession. To admit petitioner’s confession in such a case would allow ‘law enforcement officers to violate the Fourth Amendment with impunity, safe in the knowledge that they could wash their hands in the `procedural safeguards’ of the Fifth.’ ”


“A single, familiar standard is essential to guide police officers, who have only limited time and expertise to reflect on and balance the social and individual interests involved in the specific circumstances they confront. Indeed, our recognition of these dangers, and our consequent reluctance to depart from the proved protections afforded by the general rule, are reflected in the narrow limitations emphasized in the cases employing the balancing test. For all but those narrowly defined intrusions, the requisite ‘balancing’ has been performed in centuries of precedent and is embodied in the principle that seizures are ‘reasonable’ only if supported by probable cause.”

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