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Colorado Criminal Law – Am I In Custody – Am I Under Arrest – Do They Need To Mirandize Me With The Miranda Warnings?

A recent (2011) Colorado case addresses the key question in all Miranda  5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent – Right to Advisement Cases – This quick analysis helps the Colorado citizen understand the state of the law in Colorado on Miranda Advisements and the meaning of “being in custody.” 

Wikipedia describes the Miranda decision as follows:

The Miranda warning (also referred to as Miranda rights) is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.

In other words, a Miranda warning is a prophylactic criminal procedure rule that law enforcement is required to administer in order to protect an individual who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination.

In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the admission of elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

If law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may still interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements to incriminate him or her in a criminal trial.

Question: Are You “In Custody”?

The fundamental inquiry in determining whether a suspect is in custody or under arrest for purposes of the Miranda decision is:

“‘whether a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would believe himself to be deprived of his freedom of action to the degree associated with a formal arrest.’”

In making this determination, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances under which the interrogation was conducted.

A court must examine all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, but ‘the ultimate inquiry is simply whether there was a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.’”

Some of the factors a court should consider include:

(1) the time, place, and purpose of the encounter;

(2) the persons present during the interrogation;

(3) the words spoken by the officer to the defendant;

(4) the officer’s tone of voice and general demeanor;

(5) the length and mood of the interrogation;

(6) whether any limitation of movement or other form of restraint was placed on the defendant during the interrogation;

(7) the officer’s response to any questions asked by the defendant;

(8) whether directions were given to the defendant during the interrogation; and

(9) the defendant’s verbal or nonverbal response to such directions.

This list is not exhaustive and no single factor is determinative.

The trial court’s inquiry “is limited to an objective reasonable person standard.” That is, the custody assessment “depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned.”

Therefore a court cannot consider the “unarticulated thoughts or views of the officers and suspects.”  However, where a police officer’s knowledge or beliefs are conveyed by word or deed to the person being questioned, such knowledge or belief may bear on the custody issue to the extent it would affect how a reasonable person in the position of the individual being questioned would gauge the breadth of his freedom of action.


Other Articles of Interest:

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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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