Illinois v. Perkins

LOCATION: Montgomery County jail

DOCKET NO.: 88-1972
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 496 US 292 (1990)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 04, 1990

Dan W. Evers - By appointment of the Court, argued the cause for the respondent
Marcia L. Friedl - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Paul J. Larkin, Jr. - Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

While being held in jail, Perkins freely confessed to committing a murder to an undercover police officer who was posing as another inmate.


Did the undercover police officer violate the accused's Miranda rights as protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Illinois v. Perkins

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1990 in Illinois v. Perkins

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 88-1972, Illinois v. Lloyd Perkins.

Ms. Friedl, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Marcia L. Friedl:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case comes from the Illinois Appellate Court which upheld the suppression of Defendant's murder confession on the Miranda grounds.

The ruling precludes the use of undercover agents to in any way question incarcerated suspects concerning criminal offenses that they may have committed and it ironically arises on facts which affirmatively establish that Defendant Perkins in this case perceived no pressures whatsoever to speak when making his incriminating statements, but, rather, he was simply killing time with boastful admissions to those whom he believed to be co-conspirators in a jail break.

After detailing how the privilege against self-incrimination is seriously threatened whenever a suspect is subjected to the inherently compelling pressures of custodial interrogation, this Court in Miranda developed prophylactic warnings and rules to provide practical reinforcement for the Fifth Amendment privilege.

However, because the Miranda safeguards of a protective Fifth Amendment, and because they markedly decrease the number of wholly-reliable statements that are available to law enforcement for both investigation and prosecution purposes, this Court has characterized those safeguards as extraordinary and has consistently refused to apply them outside the context of the inherently compelling custodial interrogations for which they were designed.

The Miranda's principal concern was that mutually reinforcing manifestations of police dominance arising from custodial interrogation will inevitably exert significant pressures on an accused to speak.

This concern is entirely inapposite to undercover elicitation statements.

A suspect who is in immediate and non-transit control of a non-governmental authority who also at the same makes its interest at eliciting a statement apparent, might naturally believe that he has no right to speak because the... the authorities' power to eventually get what it wants is immediately suggested by its power of restraint.

And even if the subject is not subjected to any further incarceration, additional incarceration, above and beyond that of general incarceration itself, other potential pressures remain because the suspect will still... the inmate will still understand that speaking will accommodate an inquiring government that not only has the proven power of incarceration but also has future control over his physical environment, his prosecution and other aspects of his life.

Now, where a suspect doesn't know that he's encountering a governmental agent, he can feel absolutely none of these pressures, and any concern in Miranda for perceived governmental domination by the questioner which could even conceivably be reinforced by the governmental's power of incarceration is dispelled by the deception itself.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, Ms. Friedl, now, if the undercover agent had physically beaten the prisoner up in order to obtain the information, do you think the Fifth Amendment might preclude the use of that information?

Marcia L. Friedl:

Clearly the due process clause test for that would be available in the--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do you think the Fifth Amendment would preclude it?

Marcia L. Friedl:

--This Court has never held the Fifth Amendment to specifically apply.

In Hoffa the Court assumed that the Fifth Amendment applies in undercover contacts.

This Court has never specifically held the Fifth Amendment to apply in the undercover context.

But the due process test is precisely the same as the Fifth Amendment.

So, the due process clause for certain would be available to remedy that.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

But there is a concern in the Fifth Amendment for voluntariness, isn't there?

Marcia L. Friedl:

For compelled... the privilege against self--


Marcia L. Friedl:


Sandra Day O'Connor:

And you think if the undercover agent beat it out of him, it might be considered compulsion?

Marcia L. Friedl:

Oh, of course.


Marcia L. Friedl:

Of course.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Now, was there a lawyer appointed here--

Marcia L. Friedl:

There's nothing in the record--