Harris v. New York Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Petitioner was charged with selling heroin on multiple occasions to an undercover police officer. At trial, Petitioner testified that the bags did not contain heroin, but had baking powder inside.

Facts of the case

Harris was arrested for making two sales of heroin to an undercover police officer. Before receiving the Miranda warnings, Harris said that he had made both sales at the request of the officer. This statement was not admitted into evidence at the trial. However, Harris later testified in Court that he did not make the first sale and in the second sale he merely sold the officer baking powder. Harris’ initial statement was then used by the prosecution in an attempt to impeach his credibility.


Was the prosecution improperly allowed to use the statements to impeach Petitioner’s testimony since the statements were made without Miranda warnings?


Chief Justice Burger issued the opinion for the United States Supreme Court in holding that Petitioner was allowed to be impeached using his conflicting statements.


The court held that Miranda did not prevent the state from using Harris’ statement to the police to confront defendant with prior inconsistent utterances. Thus, the court concluded that Harris’ credibility was appropriately impeached by use of his earlier conflicting statements.

  • Case Brief: 1971
  • Petitioner: Harris
  • Respondent: New York
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 401 US 222 (1971)
Argued: Dec 17, 1970
Decided: Feb 24, 1971