Miranda – Routine Booking Question Exception…

In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court held that “the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).

The Supreme Court later elaborated upon the meaning of “interrogation” under Miranda explaining that the term refers to (1) express questioning and (2) “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.” Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980).

A four-justice plurality subsequently recognized, as a type of question “normally attendant to arrest and custody,” a “routine booking question exception” to Miranda that “exempts from Miranda’s coverage questions to secure the biographical data necessary to complete booking or pretrial services.” Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U.S. 582, 600-02 (1990). Writing the plurality opinion, Justice Brennan explained that questions that are asked “for record-keeping purposes only” and are “reasonably related to the police’s administrative concerns . . . fall outside the protections” of Miranda. Muniz, 496 U.S. at 601-02. The Court held that questioning Muniz about his “name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and current age” were Miranda exempt because these questions were “reasonably related to the police’s administrative concerns.” Muniz, 496 U.S. at 601-02.

Texas courts have consistently recognized this routine booking question exception to Miranda. The most recent Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision on the exception is Alford v. State, ___ S.W.3rd ___, (Tex.Crim.App. 2012). In Alford, Cecil Alford was arrested for evading arrest. After he was transported to the county jail, the arresting officer searched the back seat of his patrol car and found a clear plastic bag containing several pills. Directly under the bag he found a flash drive. The officer showed the flash drive to Alford and asked him what it was – Alford said it was a memory drive. The officer ask Alford if it was his and Alford said yes. Subsequent testing revealed that the pills were ecstacy. Alford was then charged with possession of a controlled substance. At trial, the State introduced the statements concerning the flash drive to help establish Alford’s knowledge and possession of the controlled substance. The jury convicted Alford and he was sentenced to five years’ confinement in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Prior to trial, Alford filed a motion to suppress his statement concerning the flash drive claiming that the questioning by the arresting officer violated Miranda. The trial court denied the motion to suppress ruling that the question was a routine booking question and was not in violation of Miranda. On appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals confirmed Alford’s conviction. To read the Court’s opinion, click here: Alford v. State.