Illinois v. Perkins

Illinois v. Perkins Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
496 U.S. 292 (1990)

ISSUE: Does an undercover law enforcement officer have to give Miranda warnings to an incarcerated suspect before asking him questions that may elicit an incriminating response?
  • Charlton, a fellow inmate of D at a prison, told police that D told him in detail about a murder that had occurred
  • Police wanted to investigate so they put an undercover agent in D's cell with D and Charlton, and the agent indicated that he wished to escape
  • To prove himself, D told the agent in detail, in response to questions from the agent, about the murder
  • Trial Ct. suppressed the statements
  • Ct. App. affirmed
  • No concerns of Miranda Court: Conversations between suspects and undercover agents do not implicate the concerns underlying Miranda
    • No police domination or compulsion because the individual does not know that he is speaking with an officer
    • Miranda forbids coercion, not strategic deception by taking advantage of the suspect's misplaced trust
  • No problem with rule: No problem withMiranda bright-line rule because officers will have little difficulty putting into practice the holding that undercover agents needn't give Miranda warnings to incarcerated suspects
  • While the facts here do not amount to "interrogation" in order to invoke Miranda, the deception and manipulation practiced on D raise a substantial claim that the confession was obtained in violation of the DPC
  • Deliberate use of deception and manipulation by the police appear incompatible with a system that prohibits inquisitorial means of securing conviction
DISSENT - Marshall:
  • The conditions necessary to invoke Miranda, custodial interrogation by an officer, were present here
  • Exception for undercover officers is inconsistent with the rationale of Miranda and allows the police to intentionally take advantage of suspects unaware of their constitutional rights
  • Miranda was not concerned solely with policecoercion, but also with any police tactics that may operate to compel a suspect in custody to make incriminating statements without full awareness of his constitutional rights
  • Outer boundaries of the exception are not clear
  • Illinois v. Perkins marks part of the gradual loosening of Miranda v. Arizona's strict requirements. While an incarcerated person is surely in custody under any normal use of the term, she is nevertheless not entitled to Miranda warnings if she is questioned by an undercover law enforcement officer. The decision makes sense practically: it would defeat the purpose of using undercover officers if the officer had to Mirandize the unsuspecting individual before speaking with them. This would surely blow their cover.
  • One may recall United States v. White and its so-called "false friend rule" from the Fourth Amendment context. White held that the Fourth Amendment is not violated when a party to a conversation later turns that information over to the police. Perkins essentially carries that rule to the Miranda context, since Miranda is not violated  by a party to a conversation turning information over to the police so long as the other party does not know that the first party is a law enforcement officer.
  • Arizona v. Fulminante: After D was having a "rough time" in prison, a prison informant offered D protection from the other inmates if he told him about the murder of D's stepdaughter.
    • Held, D's confession of the murder was coerced because D's will was overborne by the credible threat of physical violence if he did not confess


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