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Juvenile in residential facility was in custody for Miranda purposes

State v. J.T.M., 2015AP1585, 7/19/16, District 3 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

A detective interrogated 16-year-old J.T.M. while he was in a juvenile residential facility without first giving Miranda warnings. Because J.T.M. was in custody and wasn’t given the warnings, his statement regarding a sexual assault allegation must be suppressed.

Two inquiries are essential in determining whether a person was in custody for Miranda purposes: “first, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.” Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112 (1995). While this is an objective standard that does not depend on the subjective views of the person being interrogated or the officer conducting the interrogation, a child’s age, if known or apparent to the officer, must be taken into account in the objective, reasonable person analysis. J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 261, 265, 271-77 (2011). “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” Id. at 264-65.

Considering the totality of the objective circumstances in the context of James being in a court-ordered placement in a facility analogous (if not quite equal) to a jail (¶17), the court concludes J.T.M. (referred to as “James”) was in custody and entitled to Miranda warnings:

¶18     James was summoned to the administrative building from another location by facility staff and immediately turned over to a plain clothed, armed police officer. Detective Mocadlo then told James he wanted to talk and that they were going down to the basement. James was led to a basement office and the door was closed behind him. There is no evidence that the room had any windows. He was never told that he did not need to meet with Mocadlo, or that he could subsequently terminate the interrogation. He was never offered the opportunity to call his parents. Mocadlo told James when the interrogation was done, escorted him back upstairs, and turned him back over to staff. Mocadlo told the staff he “was finished with him.” Upon James’s release to staff, the staff person then granted James permission to leave the building, directing him to another building. James was just a few weeks past his sixteenth birthday.

¶19      On the other hand, Mocadlo did not draw his firearm or handcuff or physically restrain James, and there were no other officers present. Mocadlo also told James during the interview that James could tell him if he did not “care to talk about” a particular question, and they would move on. Mocadlo never expressly told James he was under arrest.

¶20     Reviewing the facts here, we cannot conclude that a reasonable sixteen-year-old would have felt free to simply terminate the interrogation and depart the closed office, much less return upstairs unescorted or leave the building. If James was expected to know he had any such rights under the circumstances here, then it was incumbent upon Mocadlo to tell him so. Advisements that a suspect is not under arrest and is free to leave “are ‘of substantial importance.’” [State v.] Quigley, 2016 WL 3263943, ¶40 (citations omitted). “Such advisements are ‘not talismanic,’ but they are ‘highly probative[.]’” Id. (citations omitted). In reviewing the totality of the circumstances here, we emphasize the Supreme Court’s acknowledgement that “a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go.” J.D.B., 564 U.S. at 272.

(Footnotes omitted.)

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