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Rhode Island v. Innis


A robbery victim identified the defendant in a photo display. Nearly four hours later, a police officer spotted the defendant. The defendant was arrested and advised of his Miranda rights. He was not in the possession of the shotgun used in the robbery at the time of his arrest. After being advised of his rights, the defendant requested to speak with a lawyer. A supervisor on scene had the defendant placed in a vehicle, along with three officers. Before departing, the supervisor advised the officers in the vehicle “not to question the defendant or intimidate or coerce him in any way.” While traveling to the police station, two of the patrolmen discussed the possibility that a handicapped child from a nearby school might find a loaded shotgun and get hurt. The defendant, who overheard the conversation, interrupted the conversation and told the officers to turn the car around so that he could show them where the shotgun was located. The police returned him to the scene of the arrest and again advised of his Miranda rights. He replied that he understood his rights, but that he “wanted to get the gun out of the way because of the kids in the area in the school.” The defendant then led the police to a nearby field, where he pointed out the hidden shotgun. At trial, both the shotgun and the testimony relating to its discovery were introduced against the defendant.


Whether the police officers “interrogated” the defendant through their overheard conversation?


No. The police officers’ actions did not amount to “interrogation” or the “functional equivalent of interrogation” of the defendant.


The procedural safeguards of Miranda apply “whenever a person in custody is subjected to either express questioning or its functional equivalent.” The Court stated “the term ‘interrogation’ under Miranda refers not only to express questioning, but also to any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.” In this case, the defendant had not been “interrogated” since there had been neither “express” questioning, nor the “functional equivalent” of questioning. There was no “express” questioning in that the conversation was entirely between two officers in the vehicle, and not directed to the defendant. Similarly, the officers did not subject the defendant to the “functional equivalent” of questioning. “There is nothing in the record to suggest that the officers were aware that the defendant was peculiarly susceptible to an appeal to his conscience concerning the safety of handicapped children. Nor is there anything in the record to suggest that the police knew that the respondent (defendant) was unusually disoriented or upset at the time of his arrest.” NOTE: Compare this case to Brewer v. Williams.


446 U.S. 291, 100 S. Ct. 1682 (1980)

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