Whether you are under investigation for a white collar crime or have already been arrested for a weapon crime, it is imperative to retain an experienced New York criminal defense attorney before you talk with law enforcement. It may be that without an admission or statement on your part to the police or FBI, law enforcement has no case against you…that is right…nothing. Whatever the circumstances, whether you voluntarily go to a precinct to talk to the police to “clear the air” or you are already under arrest, you may be waiving your rights and jeopardizing your case. Even more importantly, your fatal mistake may cost you your freedom. Unfortunately for one particular defendant in Nassau County, he learned this lesson the hard way.
In a decision rendered on May 8, 2009, a Nassau County District Court Judge ruled in People v. Alfredo Pena, 2008NA011705, that a defendant’s statements were not the result of a “custodial interrogation” and therefore admissible and not obtained in violation of his rights. This “custodial interrogation” is the key element or principle in New York’s cases involving Miranda and admissions. In the Pena case, the police were investigating the defendant for the crime of Harassment through phone calls. The defendant went to the station voluntarily, waited for about 45 minutes until the detective was available and ultimately made admissions of his involvement. During this entire period of time the defendant was never handcuffed or forced to remain in the precinct. Moreover, no threats or promises were made and the defendant was not arrested. Shortly thereafter, the defendant was read his Miranda warnings, which he voluntarily waived, and he spoke further with the police. Ultimately, as you have probably guessed by now, the police arrested the defendant and the prosecutors indicated that they were going to use all the admissions against the defendant at trial. After motions were made by the defendant’s counsel, a Huntley Hearing (a hearing where a judge determines the admissibility of a defendant’s statement) was ordered and conducted.
More after the jump…
Upon hearing the testimony, the court ruled that when the defendant made his initial statement prior to being read his Miranda warnings, the investigation by the police was not a “custodial interrogation.” The court noted:
“It is well established that ‘both the elements of police ‘custody’ and police ‘interrogation’ must be present before law enforcement officials constitutionally are obligated to provide the procedural safeguards imposed upon them by Miranda. The fact that there may have been police questioning is not controlling.’ People v. Huffman, 41 N.Y.2d 29, 390 N.Y.S.2d 843 (1976); See also: People v. Berg, 92 N.Y.2d 701, 685 N.Y.S.2d 906 (1999) A determination of whether or not an individual was subjected to custodial interrogation will first turn on ‘what a reasonable man, innocent of any crime, would have thought had he been in the defendant’s position.’ People v. Yukl, 25 N.Y.2d 585, 307 N.Y.S.2d 857 (1969); See also: People v. Paulman, 5 N.Y.3d 122, 800 N.Y.S.2d 96 (2005); People v. Morales, 25 A.D.3d 624, 807 N.Y.S.2d 142 (2nd Dept. 2006) In making this determination the court should look to such factors as the amount of time spent with the police, whether an individual was handcuffed or restrained in any way, whether there was any questioning, the location of the questioning, was the atmosphere unduly coercive, the individual’s degree of cooperation, whether the individual was apprised of his or her rights, and whether the nature of the questioning was investigatory or accusatory, See: People v. Macklin, 202 A.D.2d 445, 608 N.Y.S.2d 509 (2nd Dept.1994) lv. den. 83 N.Y.2d 912, 614 N.Y.S.2d 394 (1994); People v. Warren, 300 A.D.2d 692, 750 N.Y.S.2d 670 (3rd Dept. 2002); People v. Parsad, 243 A.D.2d 510, 662 N.Y.S.2d 835 (2nd Dept.1997).”
Despite the defendant’s arguments, the court looked at the “totality of the circumstances” and found that because this defendant voluntarily came to the precinct, was previously advised of the matter being investigated, was not handcuffed, threatened or promised anything, and other factors, the pre-Miranda statement that he gave was not the product of a “custodial interrogation” and was therefore admissible at trial.
As I addressed above, this defendant learned a lesson the hard way. In the event that you or a loved one is arrested or merely contacted by law enforcement regarding an investigation do not talk yourself into a criminal conviction, the experienced criminal defense lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC are available day or night to do our best to make sure your rights and liberty are protected.