What does the police need to have before seizing or arresting someone? Dunaway v. New York

A Rochester, N.Y. police detective questioned a jail inmate, the supposed source of a lead implicating petitioner in an attempted robbery and homicide, but learned nothing that supplied “enough information to get a warrant” for petitioner’s arrest. Nevertheless, the detective ordered other detectives to “pick up” petitioner and “bring him in.”

Petitioner was then taken into custody, and although not told that he was under arrest, he would have been physically restrained if he had attempted to leave. He was driven to police headquarters and placed in an interrogation room, where he was questioned by officers after being given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. He waived counsel and eventually made statements and drew sketches that incriminated him in the crime.


  1. The Rochester police violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when, without probable cause to arrest, they seized petitioner and transported him to the police station for interrogation. Pp. 442 U. S. 206-216.

(a) Petitioner was “seized” in the Fourth Amendment sense when he was taken involuntarily to the police station, and the State concedes that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him before his incriminating statement during interrogation. P. 442 U. S. 207.

(b) Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, which held that limited “stop and frisk” searches for weapons are so substantially less intrusive than arrests that the general rule requiring probable cause to make Fourth Amendment “seizures” reasonable can be replaced by a test balancing the limited violation of individual privacy against the opposing interests in crime prevention and detection and in the police officer’s safety, and the Terry case’s progeny, do not support the application of a balancing test so as to hold that “seizures” such as that in this case may be justified by mere “reasonable suspicion.” The narrow intrusions in Terry and its progeny were judged by a balancing test, rather than the general rule requiring probable cause only because those intrusions fell so far short of the kind of intrusion associated with an arrest. For all but those narrowly defined intrusions, the requisite balancing has been performed in centuries of precedent, and is embodied in the principle that seizures are reasonable only if supported by probable cause. Pp. 442 U. S. 208-214.

(c) The treatment of petitioner, whether or not technically characterized as an arrest, was in important respects indistinguishable from a traditional arrest, and must be supported by probable cause. Detention for custodial interrogation — regardless of its label — intrudes so severely on interests protected by the Fourth Amendment as necessarily to trigger the traditional safeguards against illegal arrest. Cf. Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U. S. 721; Brown v. Illinois, supra. Pp. 442 U. S. 214-216.

Full Case here: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/442/200/#tab-opinion-1953195

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
LAWSTACHE™ LAW FIRM | Criminal Defense and Business Law

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