Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Miranda Rule Not Applicable When Questioning Is Minimal

There are a litany of cases interpreting the application of the Miranda rule in criminal cases.  For example, in DUI cases the courts have ruled that questioning about intoxication prior to conducting field sobriety tests does not trigger the advisement of rights required by Miranda.  In this recent case the appeals court extends that logic to cases where the questioning is limited to two questions of a handcuffed suspect.

The facts are as follows : Castillo and two others were handcuffed prior to the execution of a search warrant. One officer informed Castillo and the others that they were not under arrest, that they were being detained for the purpose of serving a search warrant, and asked who was responsible for the residence so the warrant could be served. After Castillo responded that he was responsible for the apartment, the officer asked if Castillo was responsible for all the property in the residence and Castillo said yes. The search was conducted, contraband was found, and Castillo was arrested. On appeal, Castillo contended that the officer's questions were intended to elicit incriminating statements and should have been suppressed because they were asked prior to Miranda warnings. Under the totality of the circumstances, Castillo was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. When police execute a search warrant on a residence, they may detain the occupants to prevent flight, minimize the risk of harm to the officers, facilitate orderly completion of the search, and determine the relationship of an individual to the premises. 

The justices opined that It is not unreasonable to detain an occupant in handcuffs for the duration of the search of the residence. Based on well established case law, the police properly detained Castillo during the search and he was not in custody when the officer questioned him. The trial court's finding that Castillo was not interrogated was supported by the evidence. Any error was harmless because other evidence found during the search established Castillo's dominion and control over the residence. 

These scenarios play out quite regularly when the police investigate criminal activity.  Many legal scholars have criticized how far Courts have gone to distiguish cases where Miranda does not apply.  One Long Beach Criminal Attorney comments that the police are given way too much freedom to interrogate suspects without advising them of their legal rights.  Notwithstanding that sentiment, the law will contiually be interpreted based on the changing times.

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