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Arrest – Test for Custody – Suspect Held in Locked Room More Than Five Hours

State v. Cesar Farias-Mendoza, 2006 WI App 134
For Farias-Mendoza: Randall E. Paulson, SPD, Milwaukee Appellate

Issue/Holding: A suspect who had agreed to be transported to police headquarters for questioning was arrested within the meaning of the fourth amendment once the police left him unattended for over five hours in a locked room:

¶23      We disagree with the State’s conclusion. While a defendant is not automatically seized anytime he is taken to a police station for questioning, see State v. Kramar, 149 Wis. 2d 767, 782-84, 440 N.W.2d 317 (1989), the United States Supreme Court has recognized that an initially consensual encounter can be transformed into a seizure or detention under the Fourth Amendment, Kaupp v. Texas, 538 U.S. 626, 632 (2003). Assuming Farias-Mendoza’s initial trip to the station was consensual, we nonetheless conclude that when Farias-Mendoza was left in a locked room for five hours, he was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Under these circumstances, a reasonable person would not have believed that he was “free to leave.” See Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554.

¶24      The State contends that Farias-Mendoza could have knocked on the door, asked to be let out and escorted from the building. Not only do we doubt that a reasonable person would think to do that after having been transported to the police station, questioned for thirty minutes about a homicide, and left in a locked room, we question the State’s suggestion that it was Farias-Mendoza’s duty to try to get out of the locked room. The State cites no authority for such a proposition, and we are unconvinced that Farias-Mendoza was required to seek to leave. A reasonable person who is locked in an interview room for five hours would not believe that he was free to leave. Accordingly, we conclude that Farias-Mendoza was illegally seized.

a defendant is not automatically seized anytime he is taken to a police station for questioning— no, but it sure is a crucial factor, see, e.g., A.M. v. Butler, 360 F3d 787 (7th Cir. No. 2004); and, U.S. v. Shaw, 6th Cir No. 05-6110, 9/26/06 (frisk, handcuffing, and transport of defendant to CID office for questioning amounted to arrest, facts deemed indistinguishable from Dunaway, and similar to Kaupp; and perhaps more to the point of the block quote above, the court summarily rejects the government contention that he voluntarily accompanied the police).


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