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Temporarily handcuffing defendant during execution of search warrant didn’t amount to “custody” for Miranda purposes

State v. Eriberto Valadez, 2014AP2855-CR, District 1, 9/1/15 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Under State v. Goetz, 2001 WI App 294, 249 Wis. 2d 380, 638 N.W.2d 386, Valadez wasn’t in custody for Miranda purposes during the execution of a search warrant of his home, so the police questioning of him during that time didn’t have to be preceded by Miranda warnings.

Police got a no-knock warrant to search the home of Valadez and his brother, and after battering down the door Valdez was briefly handcuffed while the police “cleared the house for safety, which took approximately ten minutes.” (¶3). Once the house was cleared, the handcuffs were removed and Valadez sat in the dining room while an officer made “small talk” with him, during which Valadez made incriminating statements (including identifying which bedroom was his). After cocaine was found in Valadez’s bedroom, he was taken to the police station and Mirandized. (¶¶2-6).

The circuit court correctly denied his motion to suppress the statements he made before being Mirandized:

¶13      The trial court ruled that the Goetz case controlled here. We agree. [Officer] Slomczewski removed Valadez’s plastic cuffs and made small talk with him while sitting at the dining room table. Although Slomczewski did not specifically tell Valadez that he was not under arrest, a reasonable person would get that message when the cuffs were removed. Further, Slomczewski never asked Valadez any questions about cocaine or drugs in the house; rather, he limited them to background questions. Valadez argues the question about which bedroom was his was incriminating because that is where police found the cocaine. However, Slomczewski was unaware of any drugs in the home at the time he spoke with Valadez. Accordingly, under the objective standard, a reasonable person in Valadez’s position would not have considered himself to be in custody at the time Slomczewski had this conversation. Because Valadez was not in custody, Miranda warnings were not required and therefore, the trial court properly denied Valadez’s motion to suppress his statements.

The court of appeals also rejects Valadez’s claim that he should have been able to learn the identity of a confidential informant under § 905.10(3)(b) because he thought the informant would be able to testify in a way that would establish Valadez’s innocence by showing that the cocaine belonged to his brother Miguel:

¶17      Here, the trial court followed the correct procedure under that statute, considered the pertinent facts, and reached a reasonable conclusion. It found Valadez satisfied his initial burden and accordingly conducted an in camera review. After reviewing the information on the informant, the trial court found that the statutory exception did not apply because the informant implicated both Valadez and his brother in the cocaine sales. Thus, the informant would not help Valadez prove he was innocent; rather, the informant would provide inculpatory testimony against Valadez. The trial court’s decision to deny Valadez’s motion to disclose the informant’s identity was reasonable and we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Finally, the circuit court’s comments questioning whether Valadez really accepted responsibility didn’t amount to penalizing him for going to trial instead of entering a guilty plea:

¶21      The trial court addressed Valadez’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility as a part of his character because of his inconsistent positions. At trial Valadez’s theory was the cocaine belonged to his brother and that he was innocent. At sentencing, Valadez read a statement accepting responsibility but at the same time submitted a letter from a family member professing Valadez’s innocence. Accepting responsibility, remorse and cooperation are legitimate sentencing factors that a trial court may consider as a part of the sentence. [State v.Gallion, [2004 WI 42,] 270 Wis. 2d 535, ¶43 n.11.[, 678 N.W.2d 197.] Further, the trial court specifically remarked that it never penalizes a defendant for taking a case to trial. The sentencing transcript shows the trial court properly exercised its sentencing discretion and the remarks that Valadez challenges did not result in a “trial penalty”; rather, the comments addressed the trial court’s concern about the genuineness of Valadez’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility. The trial court did not erroneously exercise its sentencing discretion. ….

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