Dunaway v. New York

PETITIONER: Irving Jerome Dunaway
RESPONDENT: State of New York
LOCATION: Residence of Irving Dunaway

DOCKET NO.: 78-5066
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 442 US 200 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1979
GRANTED: Nov 27, 1978

Edward J. Nowak - for petitioner
Melvin Bressler - for respondent

Facts of the case

On March 26, 1971, the proprietor of a Rochester, New York pizza parlor was killed in an attempted robbery. On August 10, 1971, the police received a lead implicating Irving Dunaway, but the lead did not provide enough information to arrest him. Nevertheless, the police brought him in for questioning. He was not told he was under arrest, but he would be physically restrained if he attempted to leave. After being informed of his Miranda rights, Dunaway waived his right to counsel and made statements and a drawing that incriminated himself.

At trial, Dunaway filed a motion to suppress the evidence of his confession and drawing. The motion was denied and he was convicted. The Appellate Division of the Fourth Department and the New York Court of Appeals both affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Brown v. Illinois.

The Monroe County Court determined that the motion to suppress should have been granted under Brown. The Appellate Division of the Fourth Department reversed and held that suspects can be detained and questioned without violating Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights. The New York Court of Appeals dismissed Dunaway’s application for leave to appeal.


Is bringing a suspect into custody for questioning subject to the same probable cause standards as an arrest?

Media for Dunaway v. New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 21, 1979 in Dunaway v. New York

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in Dunaway against New York.

Mr. Nowak, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Edward J. Nowak:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please this Court.

This case directly puts in issue the rights of our citizens to be free from arrest or seizures for purposes of police investigation without probable cause under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of our constitution, and as applied by this Court in 1975 to the case of Brown versus Illinois.

This case may also present a further issue, because if this case is not decided in accordance with Brown versus Illinois, then this Court will be faced with resolving the issue of the importance of the -- or the important right of our citizens to be free from unreasonable seizures for purposes of investigative detention.

A question that was left open by this Court in Terry versus Ohio and again left open in Morales versus New York.

If I may briefly outline the facts, there was a murder in the City of Rochester at a pizza parlor, March 26 of 1971.

The proprietor of that establishment was fatally wounded during the course of an attempted robbery.

The next fact that we have from the record, we do not know what the police did from the record between March 26 and August 10, but we know that on August 10, the police received information from an inmate who was incarcerated in the Monroe County Jail whom they had never used before, who was never established in this record as having been reliable.

They received information from this Mr. Sparrow, indicating that a Mr. Cole and a Mr. Irving Axlerod committed this particular murder at the pizza parlor.

At that point in time, the police officer who was in the jail called the lieutenant in charge of the criminal investigation of the physical crime squad.

The lieutenant came down to the police headquarters at about 8 o'clock at night, and he questioned Mr. Sparrow and he asked Sparrow where he got his information.

How did he come about knowing this?

Sparrow indicated that Cole told he did it.

The police had then went and confronted Cole who at that time was also incarcerated in the Monroe County Jail.

After two hours of questioning, Cole persisted and denied any involvement whatsoever in this homicide.

He said, “I had nothing to do with it, but I'll tell you who did, I didn't do it but Irving Axlerod did it with another guy called Ba Ba Adams.”

The police at that point said, “Who told you this Mr. Cole?” “Somebody else, Adam's brother a guy named Hubert Adams.”

“Well where is Hubert Adams?”

“He's in the Elmira Correctional Facility”, which is about 90 miles south of Rochester.

What did the police do?

Again, I'd like to emphasize that Mr. Cole is a person charged with a crime, never having been used at all in any way.

His reliability has never been established.

And while his reliability had never been established, he is denying that he was involved in this crime which is the original information that they got that he was involved.

Potter Stewart:

Where was the -- where did the interrogation of Cole take place?

Edward J. Nowak:

At the Monroe County Jail.

Potter Stewart:

Where he was incarcerated on another charge?

Edward J. Nowak:

He was incarcerated then they took him to from the jail to an interview room and questioned --

Potter Stewart:

He was already in jail on some other charge?

Edward J. Nowak:

He was in jail on other charges, that's correct.