Orozco v. Texas, 394 U.S. 324 (1969)

Four armed police officers arrived at Orozco’s home at 4 a.m. to question him about a murder. The officers entered Orozco’s bedroom, woke him up, and questioned him without reading Miranda warnings. Orozco admitted to being present at the murder scene, owning a firearm, and told the officers its whereabouts. Tests revealed that the firearm was the gun that fired the fatal shot.

At trial, an officer testified that from the moment questioning began, Orozco was under arrest and not free to leave. Orozco’s statements were admitted and he was found guilty. Orozco appealed, arguing that his statements were given while he was ‘‘in custody,’’ thus violating Miranda v. Arizona (1966).

When is a suspect in custody? According to Miranda, custody takes place when a suspect is deprived of freedom of movement in any significant way. To elucidate this standard, the Orozco Court looked at a variety of situational factors, including the time of day, the number of officers present, and the officers’ intent. Because the questioning took place at 4 a.m. with four armed officers, and an officer testified that Orozco was under arrest, the Court held that Orozco was in custody.

The Orozco decision clarifies the definition of ‘‘custody’’ by elaborating on when and how a suspect’s freedom of movement is deprived in a significant way. The decision illustrates how custody can take place in a suspect’s home. Finally, it provides criteria for determining whether a suspect is in custody for purposes of Miranda.

STEPHEN L. SARAZIN

References and Further Reading

  • Johnson v. New Jersey, 384 U.S. 719 (1966).
  • LaFave, Wayne, Jerold Israel, and Nancy King. Criminal Procedure. 4th ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 2004.
  • Mathis v. United States, 391 U.S. 1 (1968).
  • Saltzburg, Stephen, and Donald Capra. Constitutional Criminal Procedure. 7th ed. St. Paul, MN: West, 2004.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)

See also Arrest; Coerced Confessions/Police Interrogation; Mathis v. United States, 391 U.S. 1 (1968); Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); Miranda Warning

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