When does questioning of a middle school student by the principal and in the presence of the school resource officer (SRO) constitute a custodial interrogation? The Court of Appeals of North Carolina issued a decision last week, In re D.A.H. ___ N.C. App. ___, 2021-NCCOA-135 (April 20, 2021), that details the legal analysis necessary to answer this question. The decision reviews the unique characteristics and law related to schoolhouse questioning and identifies seven factors most relevant to determining whether a juvenile is in custody and three factors most relevant to determining whether questioning is an interrogation. The application of this analysis to the facts of the case offers an important takeaway—the legal analysis must focus on an objective reasonable child standard and not on a particular child’s subjective familiarity with an SRO who is regularly present in the school environment. Continue reading
Tag Archives: miranda
If you type “miranda” into the search box on this blog, it will return more than 50 posts covering a wide range of related topics: the meaning of custody, deficient warnings, knowing and voluntary waivers, ambiguous assertion of rights, special rules for juveniles, readvising and reinterviewing, public safety exceptions, and many, many others.
But I was stumped recently by a deceptively simple question that I had not heard before, and did not come up in those results: what if the defendant’s lawyer is present? Does an in-custody defendant still have to be advised of his Miranda rights before he can be questioned by police?
I did some digging, and the case law on this issue genuinely surprised me.
Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Watson (October 18, 2016) ruled that an officer’s erroneous completion of a juvenile waiver of rights form did not bar the admissibility of the juvenile’s confession. This post will discuss North Carolina statutory law concerning juvenile warnings and rights and the Watson ruling. Continue reading →
Generally, custody occurs under Miranda when a suspect is handcuffed even if the suspect is not informed that he or she is under arrest for a crime. However, there are exceptions, as evidenced by the recent North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling in State v. Barnes (July 19, 2016), which is the subject of this post. Continue reading →
Probably the most litigated issue involving Miranda v. Arizona is the meaning of custody under its ruling that requires law enforcement officers to give prescribed warnings when conducting custodial interrogation. My last post (May 24, 2016), available here, discussed the custody issue involving traffic stops. Since then there have been three published North Carolina appellate cases on the custody issue in other contexts, which will be the focus of this post. Continue reading →
The 50th anniversary of the landmark ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), will occur in a few weeks on June 13. As everyone knows, the case required a set of warnings and waiver of rights before a statement obtained during custodial interrogation could be introduced during the government’s presentation of its evidence at trial. The case spawned many thousands of appellate cases throughout federal and state courts. And the United States Supreme Court has issued several rulings that have clarified, extended, or confined Miranda’s scope.
This post will briefly review the meaning of custody during traffic stops by focusing on the Supreme Court’s most significant opinion on this issue: Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984). [For a discussion of all significant aspects of Miranda, see the text on pages 534-52 and case summaries on pages 578-640 of Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina (4th ed. 2011), and pages 87-89 (text) and 95-100 (case summaries) of the 2015 supplement.] Continue reading →
The United States Supreme Court and North Carolina appellate courts have ruled that a defendant must make an unambiguous request for counsel under Miranda to bar an officer’s custodial interrogation. A week ago, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Taylor (April 19, 2016), ruled that the defendant did not make an unambiguous request for counsel under Miranda. This post provides the background to this issue and discusses the Taylor ruling. Continue reading →
Nearly five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided J.D.B. v. North Carolina, a case arising from the police interrogation of a middle school student in Chapel Hill. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that police officers must consider a juvenile’s age when determining whether they must read juveniles their Miranda rights before questioning them. The ruling represents a major shift in Miranda jurisprudence by establishing a different standard for evaluating police interrogations of juveniles – the reasonable child standard. In the years since J.D.B., however, lower courts have not clearly defined how the reasonable child standard impacts the assessment of whether a juvenile was “in custody.” The application of this new standard also raises questions about how North Carolina courts evaluate custody determinations in the school setting. These and other issues are addressed in “Applying the Reasonable Child Standard to Juvenile Interrogations After J.D.B. v. North Carolina” (No. 2016/01), a new Juvenile Law Bulletin. Continue reading →
Most drivers stopped on suspicion of impaired driving are asked to submit to field sobriety tests before they are arrested. Those tests often include the three standardized tests, which researchers have found to enhance officers’ ability to accurately identify impairment: the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus tests. Officers sometimes use other types of field tests that have not been validated, such as asking participants to recite the alphabet or to conduct counting exercises. Evidence gained from any of these pre-arrest tests may be admitted against the defendant at trial without running afoul of the Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination. That’s because suspects aren’t in custody for purposes of the Fifth Amendment or Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) when they are temporarily detained for a traffic stop and are asked a moderate number of stop-related questions. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440 (1984); State v. Braswell, 222 N.C. App. 176 (2012). But what if the suspect is asked to perform field sobriety tests after he is arrested? Must he first be provided Miranda warnings? Continue reading →
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. CNN reports that he “lies in a hospital with a gunshot wound to the side of his neck, sedated and intubated,” but that he could be put on a “sedation holiday” and brought back to consciousness to be questioned. This raises several issues.
Must he be given Miranda warnings? No. There is no free-standing requirement that police administer Miranda warnings to suspects. Such warnings generally are a prerequisite to using any subsequent statement against the suspect in court, but if authorities don’t care about the admissibility of any confession in light of what appears to be ample other evidence against Tsarnaev, the warnings need not be given. Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760 (2003).
Does the public safety exception to Miranda apply? Not clear. Some have suggested that Tsarnaev could be questioned without Miranda warnings, and that any resulting statements could still be admissible in court under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule. I wrote about that issue three years ago in connection with the attempted Times Square bombing. The posts are here and here. To summarize, the public safety exception has been applied so far only to very limited questioning in the first moments of interaction between police and a potentially dangerous suspect, e.g., “where’s your gun?” Maybe a court would expand it to encompass protracted questioning of a terrorism suspect, but that’s far from a slam dunk. Readers interested in further exposition of the public safety exception may wish to consult Robert L. Farb, Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina 535, 587-89 (4th ed. 2011).
Can he be held as an enemy combatant? I doubt it, but I’m not an expert. Some politicians and others have argued that Tsarnaev should be detained as an enemy combatant. For the reasons that follow, I doubt that’s proper, but this isn’t my bailiwick so I welcome additions and corrections from others who are more versed in the issue. As a starting point, this Wikipedia entry explains that the term “enemy combatant” lacks a precise legal meaning. Generally, though, it refers to a person who is detained under the laws of war, as opposed to a person detained in connection with civilian criminal law. Whether to classify Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant relates to the Miranda question because enemy combatants typically are not read Miranda rights, but it goes beyond that question insofar as they are typically tried, if at all, in military tribunals rather than civilian courts. To qualify as an enemy combatant, one generally must be a member or supporter of an enemy force, such as Al Qaeda or the Taliban. So far, it appears that Tsarnaev isn’t. The New York Times reports that “officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own,” and also states that “there is no known evidence suggesting” that Tsarnaev is linked to Al Qaeda or any other extremist group. Even if Tsarnaev can fairly be described as a member or supporter of an enemy force, there is a potential constitutional barrier to holding him as an enemy combatant. He is a naturalized American citizen, and while American citizens captured overseas may be held as enemy combatants under Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), it is not clear whether an American citizen captured in the United States may be.
However the questioning of Tsarnaev proceeds, I hope he decides to tell the police what he knows. It wouldn’t come close to making amends for what he appears to have done, of course, but it might help prevent similar tragedies in the future.