Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights? – The Meaning Of Miranda – Custodial Interrogation Under Colorado Law
by Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg
Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights? – Miranda – Custodial Interrogation Under Colorado Law – As a Colorado criminal defense lawyer – I am asked – almost on a weekly basis whether a client’s rights were violated because the police did not “read me my rights.” This refers – obviously – to the famous Miranda decision – one of the most misunderstood concepts in criminal law.
The Miranda decision has been with us for a very long time. Law enforcement has developed methods around the Miranda decision which legally permit the police to obtain incriminating statements during what is called the detention phase – or investigatory phase – of any criminal investigation.
Since triggering Miranda requires two specific things to happen –
(1) an individual is placed in custody – under arrest
(2) the individual is then questioned or “interrogated” ..
In the absence of either of these 2 prongs – the Miranda “right” does not “kick in.”
Was I “In Custody?”
To fully understand the nature of custody for the purposes of the Miranda – courts look to each case on it’s individual facts…taking into consideration the totality of circumstances.
A recent – 2012 Colorado Supreme Court decision is instructive in helping to understand this area of Colorado criminal law.
In People v. Mumford – the police located cocaine in Mumford’s home when executing warrants to arrest Mumford’s friend and to search Mumford’s home. During the search – the police told Mumford and other occupants of the home to sit outside on the curb.
While sitting there – Mumford was asked by a detective if he lived there and whether “there was anything officers needed to know.” Mumford admitted to having a small amount of cocaine inside his bedroom for personal use.
Was Mumford In Custody – Can His Statement Be Used At Trial Against Him?
The key issue in this case is – Was Mumford’s statement the product of an involuntary custodial interrogation and therefor in violation of the Miranda decision? The fundamental inquiry in determining whether a suspect is in custody for purposes of Miranda is “‘whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe himself to be deprived of his freedom of action to the degree associated with a formal arrest.’”
In making this determination, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances under which the interrogation was conducted. A Court must examine all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, but ‘the ultimate inquiry is simply whether there was a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.’”
Some of the factors a court should consider include:
(1) the time, place, and purpose of the encounter;
(2) the persons present during the interrogation;
(3) the words spoken by the officer to the defendant;
(4) the officer’s tone of voice and general demeanor;
(5) the length and mood of the interrogation;
(6) whether any limitation of movement or other form of restraint was placed on the defendant during the interrogation;
(7) the officer’s response to any questions asked by the defendant;
(8) whether directions were given to the defendant during the interrogation;
(9) the defendant’s verbal or nonverbal response to such directions.
The Matheny List – above – is not considered exhaustive or exclusive.
Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights? – Understanding “Custody”
Restatement of Colorado’s Law of Custodial Interrogation:
The test for custody in Colorado is “an objective” one.
The test is: “whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe himself to be deprived of his freedom of action to the degree associated with a formal arrest.”
Put a different way – the question here is: “not whether a reasonable person would believe he was not free to leave, but rather whether such a person would believe he was in police custody of the degree associated with a formal arrest.”
The trial court’s inquiry “is limited to an objective reasonable person standard.” That is, the custody assessment “depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned.”
This objective mans that the “unarticulated thoughts or views of the officers and suspects” are not the relevant inquiry. BUT a police officer’s knowledge or beliefs as conveyed by word or deed to the person being questioned MAY BEAR on the custody issue to the extent it would affect how a reasonable person in the position of the individual being questioned would gauge the breadth of his freedom of action.
Detention During The Execution Of A Search Warrant – Not Every Seizure Is An Arrest
There are many forms of Fourth Amendment “seizures” that do not constitute “custody” under the Miranda Rule. For example – a common traffic stop does not constitute custody even though it is unquestionably a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
The “critical point” is this – “custody” occurs ONLY IF the restraint on freedom is of a certain degree – the degree associated with a formal arrest.” Therefore the “the temporary and relatively nonthreatening detention involved in a traffic stop does not constitute Miranda custody.
The Federal courts have also held that a “temporary detention” during execution of a warrant, like traffic or Terry (investigative) stops, ordinarily does not constitute Miranda custody. These stops are considered substantially less intrusive than an arrest…a suspect who is detained during the execution of a search warrant has not suffered a restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest and therefore is not in custody for Miranda purposes.
Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights? – The Meaning Of Miranda – The Courts Reasoning In Mumford:
Because Mumford was not placed under formal arrest – but only detained during the execution of a warrant. Nothing was present to elevate this encounter in this case from a temporary detention not requiring Miranda warnings to a custodial situation as in a formal arrest.
The Miranda “Situation” – Summary
To protect a suspect’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the Miranda decision prohibits the prosecution from introducing any statement made by a defendant that was the result of custodial interrogation, UNLESS police – BEFORE the questioning begins – utter the famous Miranda warnings AND obtain a waiver of those rights from the suspect.
The police “must advise the subject that he has the right to remain silent; that anything he says may be used against him; that he has the right to the presence of an attorney; and that if he cannot afford one, one will be appointed for him.”
Miranda protections apply only where “a suspect is subject to both custody and interrogation.”
THE WARNING – Beware Of The So Called Investigatory or Terry Stop…
The warning is this – do NOT assume you are in custody and entitled to be advised of your Miranda or 5th amendment rights. NEVER speak to the police without having consulted with a lawyer first. Most criminal defense lawyers like myself offer emergency 24 -7 conferences for this and other purposes. Whether Mumford was in custody or not for purposes of Miranda at the time he made his statements to the police…becomes irrelevant if you refuse to make a statement and always ask for a lawyer – called “lawyering up.”
Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights?
Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
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Helping Clients To Make Informed Decisions In the Defense of Colorado Criminal Cases. Colorado Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg provides solid criminal defenses for clients throughout the Front Range of Colorado – including the City and County courts of Adams County, Arapahoe County, City and County of Boulder, City and County of Broomfield, City and County of Denver, Douglas County, El Paso County – Colorado Springs, Gilpin County, Jefferson County, Larimer County, and Weld County,…. and all the other cities and counties of Colorado along the I-25 Corridor… on cases involving … questions such as – Don’t They Have To Read Me My Rights?.