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Where a suspect was arrested before he was questioned, and where the State does not claim that there was probable cause to detain him at that point, well-established precedent requires suppression of a confession unless that confession was an act of free will sufficient to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion. Demonstrating such purgation is, of course, a function of circumstantial evidence, with the burden of persuasion on the State. Relevant considerations include observance of Miranda, the temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession, the presence of intervening circumstances, and, particularly, the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.
Defendant, a 17-year-old boy, was awakened at three in the morning by at least three police officers. He was taken out in handcuffs, without shoes, dressed only in his underwear in January, placed in a patrol car, driven to the scene of a crime and then to the sheriff's offices, where he was taken into an interrogation room and questioned. After about 10 or 15 minutes of interrogation, defendant confessed. Defendant was then indicted on a state murder charge. After he moved unsuccessfully to suppress his confession as the asserted fruit of an unlawful arrest, he was convicted and sentenced to 55 years' imprisonment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District, in upholding the defendant’s conviction, concluded that no arrest had occurred until after the defendant confessed, as the Court of Appeals expressed the view that the defendant had consented to go with the officers. A writ of certiorari was granted.
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the lower courts, finding that it could not have been seriously suggested that when the detectives began to question defendant, a reasonable person in his situation would have thought he was sitting in the interview room as a matter of choice, free to change his mind and go home. Thus, defendant was arrested within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Since defendant was arrested before he was questioned, and because the State did not claim that there was probable cause to detain him, the confession must have been suppressed unless it was an act of free will sufficient to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion. While Miranda warnings were given, there was no indication from the record that any substantial time passed between defendant's removal from his home in handcuffs and his confession after only 10 or 15 minutes of interrogation.