Rhode Island v. Innis

446 U.S. 291 (1980)

Quick Summary

Thomas Innis was taken into custody, read his Miranda rights, and placed in a police car. Innis’ convictions for murder, robbery and slavery were overturned after he disclosed the location of the weapon. The state supreme court did not concur with the trial judge’s decision.

Rule of Law

For the Fifth Amendment, an interrogation should be limited to statements or actions that the police should have understood would affect an individual’s response.

Interrogation involves any words or acts likely to extract a confession from a suspect. Police cannot be held responsible for the unintended consequences of words and actions.

Facts of the Case

Thomas Innis (the “respondent”) was detained, informed of his Miranda rights, and placed in the backseat of a patrol cruiser. The police considered the possibility that a youngster may find the weapon used in the crime, and the responder divulged its position to prevent an accident.

Innis was convicted of murder, robbery, and slavery. When Innis was captured unarmed, the police believed he concealed a firearm. Innis advised the officers to turn around so he could present the weapon. He knew his rights and desired an attorney. The court authorized Innis’ gun and testimony.

The state supreme court rejected it. A taxi driver who was robbed by a man carrying a shotgun with a sawed-off barrel identified Innis as his assailant. The trial judge denied Innis’s motion to suppress the shotgun and his statements to law enforcement regarding its discovery. The conviction of Innis, who was found guilty and sentenced to death, was overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Rhode Island Supreme Court reversed Innis’ conviction and ordered a new trial, stating that he had claimed his Miranda right to counsel and that police officers in the car had “interrogated” him without a valid waiver.


Was Innis interrogated under Miranda when police officers voiced safety concerns about children finding the crime weapon and he said he’d show them?

Holding and Conclusion

No, Innis was not interrogated under Miranda.

The Court decided that Miranda Rights definition of “interrogation” include “any statements or acts by the police that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating answer from the subject”. When police officers stated safety worries about youngsters finding the weapon used in the crime and Innis stopped them, he was not questioned under Miranda Rights.

Reasoning and Analysis

The ruling upholds Miranda Rights, although the majority does not wish to expand the forbidden conduct covered by Miranda. The two police officers appeared to be having a normal conversation. The police could not have predicted that Innis would say something that could be used against him; therefore, this is not the “functional equivalent” of an interrogation.

Under this test, if the police knew the suspect was unusually persuadable, this could be a significant factor in determining whether they knew their remarks or conduct would induce an incriminating statement.

There is no evidence that the officers believed the respondent would listen to a moral argument about protecting special needs children. Since Innis makes his claims of his own volition, the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit their use.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What is the public safety exception to Miranda Rights?

It is possible that a police officer may fail to read Miranda warnings to suspects in order to better safeguard the general public as ruled in the case New York v. Quarles.

The single exemption to the Miranda rule is the “public safety” exemption, which empowers police officers to conduct restricted, targeted, and unwarned questioning and allows the government to enter the statement as direct evidence.

What is express questioning?

Express questions consist of words or actions that the police should be aware are likely to elicit a confession from the suspect. Officials may engage in coercion if they use words or actions that they should know are likely to elicit an incriminating response, or if they employ a psychological strategy that is likely to establish compelling influence.


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