Can the police give a defendant his Miranda warnings in the car on the way to the police department captured on a mobile video recorder?
State of New Jersey v. Richard Gray Jr. Appellate Division decided March 20, 2019
At around 1 a.m. on November 8, 2014, Penns Grove Police Department Patrolman Christopher Hemple went to the One Stop Deli for a property check. Inside the store, Hemple recognized defendant. Hemple knew there was an outstanding warrant for defendant. He told defendant he was under arrest, and placed a handcuff on his right hand. Hemple called for backup, a struggle ensued, and defendant ran from police.
Hemple chased after defendant, who ran through a driveway and jumped over a wall. Sergeant John Stranahan joined the pursuit and caught up to defendant when he was climbing a six-foot-tall metal fence. Stranahan attempted to grab defendant at the top of the fence, but instead pushed defendant to the ground. Defendant allegedly reached into the front of his pants and dropped what Stranahan said was a gun. Stranahan drew his weapon, scaled the fence, caught, and handcuffed defendant. Defendant denies he had a gun and said he stopped running because he got tired, and when the officer told him to get on the ground, he complied.
Stranahan searched defendant and found cash, three small vials of marijuana, and a bottle of codeine cough syrup with the label scratched off. Stranahan turned defendant over to Hemple who placed him in the patrol car. Stranahan went back to recover the weapon defendant allegedly dropped and found two guns, a black handgun and a smaller silver handgun. Stranahan secured the guns and brought them back to his patrol car. Stranahan then asked Hemple what route defendant took during the chase, followed it back towards his patrol car, and found a larger container of codeine cough syrup. Both guns recovered were operable, and the guns were not registered to defendant. Neither gun was tested for fingerprints.
Stranahan read defendant his Miranda rights in the patrol car on the drive to the station. While in the vehicle, Stranahan questioned defendant about the guns and the cough syrup and defendant admitted he possessed the cough syrup found on him. He denied knowledge of the guns and the larger bottle of cough syrup. The police Mobile Video Recorders (MVR) recorded conversations between Stranahan and the other officers prior to the interrogation, as well as the interrogation of defendant.
The first issue in this case addresses the question of whether the police officer giving the defendant the Miranda warnings in the vehicle captured by a mobile video recorder is enough while in the cruiser on the way to the police department?
The threshold question is, “under a totality of the circumstances” microscope, did the state establish that the defendant made a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver beyond a reasonable doubt. The court review the MVR and concluded that the state did establish a valid Miranda waiver. The court determined that the officer read the warnings to the defendant and it was captured on the mobile video recorder. The key question is whether there was a full awareness by the defendant of the nature of his rights being abandon and the consequences of those decisions under the United States Supreme Court decision Moran v. Burning, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986). The Appellate Division reviewed the trial judge’s discussion and review of both the characteristics of the particular defendant and the pressure brought to bear on him by the police under a 1965 New Jersey Supreme Court decision State v. Puchalski and whether the defendant made that knowing involuntary intelligent waiver of his rights beyond a reasonable doubt pursuant to the 2000 New Jersey Supreme Court decision State v. Oresga 163 N.J. 304, 313 (2000). In 2010 the US Supreme Court clarified the “uncoerced statement” threshold and added that the court must be satisfied the accused must understood the Miranda rights that he is waving. Included in that “understanding “is the trial courts evaluation of …..the defendant age, education, intelligence, advice given about his constitutional rights, the length of the detension, whether the questioning was repeat or prologue, and whether there is physical punishment or mental exhaustion involved. The court then review the recording’s of the determine that the defendant was actually facing the questioning officer when his rates were read to him, time passed, there is no invocation by the defendant have a right to remain silent or evidence of coercion or any lack of understanding on the defendants part. Accordingly under the totality of the circumstances the record support of the trial courts findings and the appellate division found no abuse of the trial courts discretion in the nine of the motion to suppress the post Miranda statement.