Monday, October 16, 2006

Up to No Good? Suppression of Statements Made Fails Seibert Test

State v. Titus, No. 05-1307 (Iowa Ct. App. October 11 2006).

Titus, driver was involved in a traffic accident and during the investigation the passenger's jacket was found in front of a K-Mart, with a revolver in the pocket. While in the back of the squad car Titus made voluntary statements about the revolver to the investigating officer. Transported to the station, Titus had a conversation with another officer that lasted a short time.
At that point, the second officer advised Titus of his Miranda rights which he waived and gave a statement. Charged with being a felon in possession, Titus moved to suppress the statements he made, alleging that he was in custody and was not advised of his rights before being actively questioned.
The trial court suppressed the statements Titus made before he was read his rights, but admitted all statements made thereafter.

Titus appealed based on Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004).

As it happens I know a little bit about this subject because I argued the same thing about two weeks after this decision came down. The decision concerns a split interrogation practice of getting the defendant to make damaging admissions and then sanitizing the process with the invocation of Miranda after the defendant's resistance has been compromised. In police circles it is called "beachheading" and is taught by some trainers as a way to get around Miranda.

The state countered with Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985), which concerned spontaneous admissions made by a defendant who was being talked to, who was then transported, Mirandized, and then proceeded to dig his own grave and pull the dirt in on top of himself.

Finding that there was no police strategy to evade Miranda, the court of appeals concluded that the giving of the Miranda warning prior to the second interrogation cured the condition that made the first statement inadmissible.

The takehome for officers is self evident. Never neglect the warning.


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