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Berkemer v. McCarty

Supreme Court of the United States

April 18, 1984, Argued ; July 2, 1984, Decided

No. 83-710


 [*422]  [***324]  [**3141]    JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case presents two related questions: First, does our decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), govern the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation by a suspect accused of a misdemeanor traffic  [*423]  offense? Second, does the roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a traffic [****8]  stop constitute custodial interrogation for the purposes of the doctrine enunciated in Miranda?

The parties have stipulated to the essential facts. See App. to Pet. for Cert. A-1. On the evening of March 31, 1980, Trooper Williams of the Ohio State Highway Patrol observed respondent's car weaving in and out of a lane on Interstate Highway 270. After following the car for two miles, Williams forced respondent to stop and asked him to get out of the vehicle. When respondent complied, Williams noticed that he was having difficulty standing. At that point, "Williams concluded that [respondent] would be charged with a traffic offense and, therefore, his freedom to leave the scene was terminated." Id., at A-2. However, respondent was not told that he would be taken into custody. Williams then asked respondent to perform a field sobriety test, commonly known as a "balancing test." Respondent could not do so without falling.

While still at the scene of the traffic stop, Williams asked respondent whether he had been using intoxicants. Respondent replied that "he had consumed two beers and had smoked several joints of marijuana a short time before." Ibid. Respondent's [****9]  speech was slurred, and Williams had difficulty understanding him. Williams thereupon formally placed respondent under arrest  [**3142]  and transported him in the patrol car to the Franklin County Jail.

At the jail, respondent was given an intoxilyzer test to determine the concentration of alcohol in his blood. 2 The test did not detect any alcohol whatsoever in respondent's system. Williams then resumed questioning respondent  [*424]  in order to obtain information for inclusion in the State Highway Patrol Alcohol Influence Report. Respondent answered affirmatively a question whether he had been drinking. When then asked if he was under the influence of alcohol, he said, "I guess, barely." Ibid. Williams next asked respondent to indicate on the form whether the marihuana he had smoked had been treated with any chemicals. In the section of the report headed "Remarks," respondent wrote, "No [angel]  [***325]  dust or PCP in the pot. Rick McCarty." App. 2.

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468 U.S. 420 *; 104 S. Ct. 3138 **; 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 ***; 1984 U.S. LEXIS 140 ****; 52 U.S.L.W. 5023



Disposition:  716 F.2d 361, affirmed.


arrest, questioning, traffic stop, motorist, custody, custodial interrogation, detained, warnings, misdemeanor, traffic offense, of Miranda, interrogation, confessions, courts, circumstances, purposes, rights, formal arrest, alcohol, felony, scene, constitutional right, suspected, driving, driver, self-incriminating, detention, safeguards, subjected, freedom of action

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Criminal Law & Procedure, Miranda Rights, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Custodial Interrogation, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Interrogation, General Overview, Notice & Warning, Counsel, Right to Counsel, Search & Seizure, Seizure of Persons, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Search Warrants, Probable Cause, Personal Knowledge, Warrantless Searches, Investigative Stops, Stop & Frisk, Reasonable Suspicion