Denial of Freedom and Miranda Warnings – State of New Jersey v. Terrell L. Hubbard

The latest analysis of when Miranda Warnings must be given to a person of interest or a ‘suspect’. Reference State of New Jersey v. Terrell L. Hubbard

The issue is when is there a denial of freedom. When does the ‘totality of the circumstances’ lead an objective person to believe the person in question is not free to leave:

In State v. O’Neal, 190 N.J. 601 (2007), the Court described the circumstances under which Miranda warnings are required: In general, Miranda warnings must be given before a suspect’s statement made during custodial interrogation [may] be admitted in evidence. In Miranda, the Court defined “custodial interrogation” as questioning initiated by law enforcement after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.

The determination whether a suspect is in custody depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned . . . . [T]he only relevant inquiry is how a reasonable [person] in the suspect’s position would have understood his situation. [Id. at 615-16 (first and third alterations in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).]

“The rights set forth in Miranda are not implicated detention and questioning is part of an investigatory rather than a custodial interrogation, or where the restriction when the procedure on a defendant’s freedom is not of such significance as to compel the conclusion that his liberty is restrained.” State v. Smith, 307 N.J. Super. 1, 9 (App. Div. 1997) (internal quotations and citations omitted), certif. denied, 153 N.J. 216 (1998).

The Court has said that the “objective circumstances” that bear consideration “includ[e] the time and place of the interrogation, the status of the interrogator, the status of the suspect, and other such factors.” State v. P.Z., 152 N.J. 86, 103 (1997). We have recognized other “[p]ertinent factors” to “include the duration of the detention, the nature and degree of the pressure applied to detain the individual, the physical surroundings of the interrogation and the language employed by the police.” Smith, supra, 307 N.J. Super. at 9; see also State v. Brown, 352 N.J. Super. 338, 352 (App. Div.) (noting additional circumstances include “the nature of the questions and the language employed by the interrogator”), certif. denied, 174 N.J. 544 (2002)).

The questioning in this case occurred in the middle of the afternoon immediately following the police response to defendant’s home. Although defendant was in the police station, we have historically and repeatedly recognized that interrogation conducted in a police station is not necessarily custodial. See, e.g., State v. Micheliche, 220 N.J. Super. 532, 536 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 109 N.J. 40 (1987). We have said that “a non-custodial situation is not converted to one in which Miranda applies merely because the questioning takes place in a ‘coercive environment.'” State v. Lutz, 165 N.J. Super. 278, 284 (App. Div. 1979) (quoting Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, 97 S. Ct. 711, 714, 50 L. Ed. 2d 714, 719 (1977)). Then, reviewing the entire Motion to Suppress transcript and the video used at the hearing of the defendant’s statement to the police, the court concluded: In short, viewing the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, we cannot conclude that defendant was subject to “the inherent psychological pressure on a suspect in custody.” Brown, supra, 352 N.J. Super. at 351 (quoting P.Z., supra, 152 N.J. at 102). As a result, Travaline did not have to administer Miranda warnings before he questioned defendant on October 20, 2008. Defendant’s statement should not have been suppressed.

Submitted by New Jersey criminal attorney, Jeffrey Hark.

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