First Circuit: Miranda Revisited

Criminal Procedure: Miranda Revisited: United States v. Rogers, Lawyer’s Weekly No. 01-247-11.

Summary Rule: The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (Souter, J. sitting by designation) held that police violated a suspect’s rights when they questioned him in his house without giving him the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona.

Practice Pointer: In determining whether a defendant was “in custody” outside a police station, for the purposes of triggering Miranda, counsel should look to: (1) Influence on the defendant by a superior (such as higher-ranking officer or maybe even boss); (2) whether the defendant was explicitly informed that he was free to leave (even if he was in his own house); and (3) whether the defendant was in the location through his own volition and (4) whether the defendant chose the location.

Discussion:

            Justice Souter authored this opinion.  It should be noted that Souter also wrote the plurality opinion in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), a Supreme Court case that held so-called midstream Miranda warnings rendered a defendant’s subsequent statements inadmissible and violated the defendant’s 5th Amendment rights.  Midstream Miranda warnings was the practice where police first obtained an inadmissible confession without giving the warnings, then issued the warnings, and obtained a second confession.

            The case arose when a personal computer the defendant sold was found to contain child pornography.  After the buyer notified local police, state authorities obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home—and made specific plans to search the home when the defendant, a decommissioned naval officer, was on duty at the naval station.  After being notified by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the defendant’s commanding officer ordered the defendant to go home, where another officer reassured him he would not be arrested.  In response to questioning inside the home, the defendant eventually admitted to possessing the pornography and, after being interviewed for 50 minutes, was asked to come to the police station for formal questioning.  There the defendant was told he was free to leave—but received his Miranda warnings. 

            In addressing the defendant’s motion to suppress, Souter held that the Defendant was “in custody” (and therefore entitled to Miranda warnings) because: (1) the Defendant was under the influence of the superior officers; (2) the defendant receiver no notification that he was free to leave; and, most significantly, (3) the military made certain that the defendant did not voluntary confront the police with the free choice of where to be.  Souter, ever the Miranda advocate, noted: “[Defendant] was in the situation that Miranda was meant to address, where the line between voluntary and involuntary response is at least so blurred that the Fifth Amendment guarantee is in jeopardy.”

Wassem M. Amin

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