Pennsylvania v. Muniz Case Brief

Summary of Pennsylvania v. Muniz, U.S. Supreme Court 1990

Petitioner: Pennsylvania

Respondent/Defendant: Muniz; the defendant was arrested for driving while drunk and he was taken to the police station. At the police station, the officer asked Muniz for his name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and current age. Then the officer asked Muniz for the date of his 6th birthday, which Muniz could not remember. Then he made Muniz to perform three sobriety tests and the defendant failed at every test. All this was videotaped and Muniz was not read his Miranda rights before he was asked to perform all the tests. Muniz was read his Miranda rights after he refused to take the breathhalyzer test. The defendat argues that the taperecording of all the proceedings that took place at the police station should be suppressed because it is self incriminating evidence which was obtained before he was read his MirandaRights and that violated his 5th Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals suppressed the evidence and remanded the case, and now the state appeals.

Issue: Should the entire audio portion of the videotape be suppressed?

Holding: No

Key Facts: Custodial interrogation according to Rhode Island v. Innis is “any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonable likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.”

Legal Reasoning: The court reasoned that 5th Amendment and Miranda apply only to evidence of testimonial or communicative nature and not to “real or physical evidence.” The court ruled that when the officer asked the defendant for his name, height, etc. before reading him his Miranda rights, it did not violate the 5th Amendment rights of the defendant because these questions are part of police booking routine. The court further ruled that the defendant’s drunk style of speech was part of the physical evidence which is not protected under Miranda. The court also ruled that taperecording of defendant performing the sobriety tests and the defendant refusing the breathhalyzer test do not violate his 5th Amendment rights because these transactions can not be considered custodial interrogation. The court reasoned that the officers only asked Muniz to perform the tests and they did not ask Muniz any questions which are “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.” At last, the court ruled that the question about Muniz’s sixth birthday should be suppressed because it can be considered testimonial evidence which should have been obtained after Muniz was read his Miranda rights.

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