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Functional Equivalent of Custodial “Interrogation”

State v. Scott M. Hambly, 2008 WI 10, affirming 2006 WI App 256
For Hambly: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether, following his in-custody invocation of right to counsel, Hambly’s subsequent statements that he didn’t know what was going on (eliciting the officer’s response that he’d sold cocaine to an informant) and wanted to talk to find out what his options were amounted to a initiation of contact authorizing interrogation within the Edwards rule.


¶57      As in the Cunningham case, Rindt made a matter-of-fact communication of the evidence the police possessed. Rindt’s comment was not as provocative as that at issue in Easley, in which the investigator not only spoke of evidence against the suspect but also warned the suspect that he could face the death penalty. Detective Rindt’s comment may be favorably distinguished from the police conduct at issue in InnisEasley, and Cunningham, because Rindt’s comment was reasonably responsive to the defendant’s own statement that he did not understand why he was under arrest.[60]Confronting a suspect with incriminating physical evidence, or verbally summarizing the State’s case against the suspect, does not necessarily constitute the functional equivalent of express questioning. [61]

¶58      Although Meyer, the informant, was a childhood friend of the defendant, nothing in the record supports the suggestion that Rindt knew or should have known that his brief response would result in the defendant’s further statements. An objective observer could not have concluded that Rindt’s response to the defendant, who stated that he did not understand why he was under arrest, would likely elicit an incriminating response. Rindt merely stated that the defendant had sold drugs to an informant who had been cooperating with police during those transactions. We conclude that “[t]he compelling pressures of in-custody interrogation identified in Miranda as working ‘to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak’ were not present in the circumstances of this case.” [62]

¶66      For the reasons set forth, we conclude that Rindt’s words and conduct did not constitute interrogation; Rindt did not engage in express questioning or the functional equivalent of express questioning after the defendant effectively invoked his Fifth Amendment Miranda right to counsel. Rindt’s statement would not be viewed by an objective observer as the type of comment that would encourage the defendant to make some incriminating remark. A reasonably objective observer could not foresee that Rindt’s conduct and words would elicit an incriminating response from the defendant.

The court distinguishes State v. Ondra Bond, 2000 WI App 118, affirmed by equally divided vote2001 WI 56 on relatively narrow grounds (¶62: “Bond is significantly different from the present case”):

¶61      The officer in Bond did not make “a matter-of-fact communication of the evidence” against Bond; he made a cryptic remark that made sense only to the person who committed the crime for which Bond was arrested. Consequently, Bond’s comment understanding the officer’s words was an expected response, and thus the officer’s words were the functional equivalent of interrogation. One of the officers testified that the comment “was designed . . . to elicit a response from” Bond. [68] TheBond court of appeals concluded that the officer’s remark was the equivalent of interrogation in the absence of a Miranda warning and that Bond’s incriminating response had to be suppressed.

Note that the court not only did not overrule the court of appeals decision in Bond (which it certainly could have done) but instead all but explicitly ratified its holding by unreservedly relying on it.


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