Pennsylvania v. Muniz

PETITIONER: Pennsylvania
RESPONDENT: Inocencio Muniz
LOCATION: Cumberland County Central Booking

DOCKET NO.: 89-213
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 496 US 582 (1990)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1990

J. Michael Eakin - on behalf of the Petitioner
Richard F. Maffett, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

On November 30, 1986, a patrol officer saw Inocencio Muniz and another passenger in a car stopped on the shoulder of a highway. When the officer approached, he could smell alcohol on Muniz’s breath and saw that his eyes were bloodshot and his face was flushed. The officer advised Muniz to remain parked, but as he was leaving he saw Muniz drive off. The officer pulled Muniz over and had him perform three field sobriety tests, all of which Muniz failed. Muniz told the officer he failed them because he had been drinking. The officer arrested Muniz and took him to a booking center, where he was told that his actions and voice were being recorded, but no one read him his Miranda rights. Muniz answered a series of questions about himself and stumbled over an answer regarding the year he turned six. Muniz again failed three field sobriety tests and refused a breathalyzer test. The officer then read Muniz his Miranda rights, and Muniz signed a statement waiving them. In subsequent questioning, he admitted to being under the influence of alcohol.

At trial, the video and audio recordings of Muniz’s behavior at the booking center were admitted into evidence, along with the officer’s reports of Muniz’s failure of the field sobriety tests and his incriminating statements. Muniz was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. He filed a motion for a new trial and argued that the evidence of his behavior and statements prior to the Miranda warning should have been excluded from trial. The trial court denied the motion. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed and held that the testimony regarding Muniz’s behavior and the results of the field sobriety tests was physical in nature, not testimonial, but that the audio portion of the recording should have been suppressed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the application for review.


Do incriminating utterances of a drunk-driving suspect constitute self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment?

Media for Pennsylvania v. Muniz

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1990 in Pennsylvania v. Muniz

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 89-213, Pennsylvania v. Muniz.

Mr. Eakin, you may proceed.

J. Michael Eakin:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

In this case we have a drunk driving suspect, Inocencio Muniz, who was legitimately in custody, and that is not at issue.

What is at issue is what the police did with Mr. Muniz once they lawfully had him in custody.

What they did is what they do with the large majority of drunk driving cases, which now number of 1,000 a year in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

They took him to one of the central booking stations that have been set up and there turned him over to several processing agents, employees of the county whose job it is to do nothing but process drunk driving suspects.

What they did was a multi-step function, all of it on videotape.

They bring the individual into the room, ask him some routine booking questions, his name, his address, his Social Security number and such.

They then follow that with several sobriety tests.

They first at this point ask him to try to calculate the date of his sixth birthday.

They ask him to walk a line, nine steps.

They ask him to balance himself on one leg while counting to 30, and they conduct the horizontal gaze nystagmus test which measures the effect of alcohol on the function of the eye.

John Paul Stevens:

Mr. Eakin, may I ask you, are these regular... is this the routine that's followed with everyone?

J. Michael Eakin:

Yes, sir.

John Paul Stevens:

Is it pursuant to regulation, or is it just this particular police department that does this?

J. Michael Eakin:

Well, this is the county, which encompasses probably State Police, several military installations and 20-odd local departments.

The county agents do it, and they always do it the same.

The latter three of the field tests are what are called the standard field sobriety tests.

They're the ones that are recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety--

John Paul Stevens:

You said they always do it the same just by custom, not by... no written regulation requires this procedure?

J. Michael Eakin:

--No, sir, not by law or regulation.

John Paul Stevens:

What would happen if a... if an individual said I won't do it?

J. Michael Eakin:

Well, the law, we feel, would allow the police to compel them to do it, but practically speaking there is no way you can compel a person to walk a line and get any useful information.

John Paul Stevens:

Does he... does he... does he violate any law if he says I will not recite the alphabet or I will not tell you my sixth birthday?

J. Michael Eakin:

No, sir.

What happens is that the videotape which is available would indicate the circumstances of the refusal, and so the refusal may come into evidence.

John Paul Stevens:


J. Michael Eakin:

But there's no penalty, excepting the breath test, which is the... the stage of the process that follows these sobriety tests is the breath test.

The individual is advised that under Pennsylvania law there is an implied consent.