August 23, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Juvenile’s Miranda Waiver Sufficiently Reliable Under Totality of Circumstances

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Barrios on Monday, January 28, 2019.

Juvenile—Miranda—Advisement Waiver.

In this case, the supreme court considered whether a juvenile’s Miranda advisement waiver was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. The court held that the police detective complied with the provisions of the juvenile Miranda waiver statute, C.R.S. § 19-2-511, and that the concerns identified by the trial court do not undermine the reliability of the waiver. Because both the juvenile and his legal guardian were fully advised of all the juvenile’s rights and the juvenile issued a reliable waiver, his statements to police should not be suppressed. Accordingly, the trial court’s order suppressing the juvenile’s statements was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant’s Statements Admissible Under Two-Part Seibert Test

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Verigan v. People on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Suppression of Statements—Two-Step Interrogation—Plurality Supreme Court Opinions—Miranda Warnings.

This case required the supreme court to decide (1) whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s fractured opinion in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), created a precedential rule that could be applied to future cases, and (2) whether statements made by petitioner after she was given Miranda warnings should be suppressed because the statements were made after petitioner provided unwarned, incriminating statements to the police.

The court concluded that Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Seibert, which created an exception to the framework established in Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985), for cases involving a deliberate two-step interrogation aimed at undermining the efficiency of the Miranda warning, is the controlling precedent to be applied. Applying Justice Kennedy’s test here, the court concluded that the officers in this case did not engage in a two-step interrogation in a deliberate attempt to undermine the effectiveness of Miranda warnings provided to petitioner. Therefore, the court concluded that the Elstad framework applies, and because petitioner’s pre- and post-warning statements were indisputably voluntary, the court concluded that the division correctly determined that petitioner’s post-warning statements were admissible.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the court of appeals division’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: One-on-One Voice Identification Procedure Overly Suggestive and Not Protected by Miranda

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Jaquez on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

Criminal Law—Voice Identification—Fifth Amendment—Custodial Interrogation—Agent of the State—Miranda.

The victim of an armed robbery was directed by the police to speak with defendant while he was in custody to see if defendant would say anything to the victim. At the time, defendant was handcuffed in the backseat of a police vehicle with the window closest to him rolled down. Defendant was not warned of his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda v. Arizona. Unlike a typical voice identification procedure, defendant was not merely asked to repeat the words heard by the victim during the robbery. Instead, defendant and the victim had a brief conversation during which defendant made statements that were nearly identical to the statements made by the robber. The victim identified defendant as the robber and based on this identification, he was arrested and charged with armed robbery. Defendant moved to suppress both the out-of-court voice identification and the statements he made during the voice identification procedure. The trial court denied the motion. The statements were admitted at defendant’s criminal trial as substantive evidence of his guilt. Defendant was convicted as charged.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when it admitted the statements he made to the clerk during his voice identification. Here, the statements were made during a custodial interrogation, and the clerk was acting as an agent of the state because he was acting at the specific direction of law enforcement officials. Further, the words spoken by defendant were not merely a voice exemplar used to identify him but were volitional statements used by the prosecution as substantive evidence of his guilt. Therefore, the admission of defendant’s statements made during a one-on-one voice identification procedure not preceded by Miranda warnings violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. This error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

The conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Police Officer’s Testimony Defining Street Slang for Drug Considered Expert Testimony

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Bryant on Thursday, April 19, 2018.

Assault—Expert Testimony—Jury Instructions—MirandaWarning—Voluntary Statements—Evidence.

While high on PCP, defendant assaulted two teenagers. After defendant’s arrest, police officers interviewed him and he admitted that he was under the influence of PCP, which he initially referred to as “sherm.” Defendant told officers that they could retrieve the substance from his sock, which they did. Before trial, defendant filed several motions to suppress. The court denied all of the motions, ruling that defendant’s statements were made voluntarily and that he had validly waived his Miranda rights. Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and two counts of third degree assault.

On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred by ruling that his statements to the police were voluntary. He argued that the police exploited his intoxicated state during their interrogation. Here, by the time they reached the police station, defendant was calm, coherent, and cooperative. The interview lasted no more than 15 minutes; there was no evidence that defendant’s demeanor changed during the interview; and there was no evidence of psychological coercion. The trial court did not err by finding that defendant’s statements to police were voluntary.

Defendant also contended that his statements should have been suppressed because police failed to obtain a valid waiver of his Miranda rights. Defendant contended that he was so intoxicated and confused when he was advised of his Miranda rights that he did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of those rights. The record supports the trial court’s finding that defendant was not intoxicated when he waived his Miranda rights. The trial court did not err by finding that defendant validly waived his Miranda rights.

Defendant also contended that the trial court reversibly erred by allowing Officer Fink to testify as a lay witness regarding the meaning of the term “sherm.” This testimony was not based on Officer Fink’s personal knowledge or investigation of defendant’s case, but was based on his training and experience as a police officer. Although the trial court erred by allowing Officer Fink to testify as a lay witness, the error was harmless because the testimony was cumulative of other evidence presented at trial that served to prove the “knowingly” element of the possession charge.

Defendant next contended that the trial court erred by improperly instructing the jury. First, the instruction that voluntary intoxication was not a valid defense to the charged crimes could not have confused the jury, particularly because it was a brief and correct statement of the law. Second, the pattern instruction on mens rea was legally correct and informed the jury to apply a subjective standard rather than on objective standard. There was no error in the manner in which the trial court instructed the jury.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Interactions Between Police and Defendant Non-Custodial for Miranda Purposes

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Garcia on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Miranda Warnings.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the interactions between law enforcement officers and defendant inside her home and in her front yard did not constitute custody for Miranda purposes. Under the totality of the circumstances, the court concluded that a reasonable person in defendant’s position would not have believed her freedom of action had been curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court’s suppression order.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant Not In Custody at Time of Interview so Suppression Order Reversed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Sampson on Monday, October 30, 2017.

Miranda Warnings.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that a conversation between defendant and a law enforcement officer that took place in a hospital did not constitute custody for Miranda purposes. Under the totality of the circumstances, the court concluded that a reasonable person in defendant’s position would not have believed that his freedom of action had been curtailed to a degree associated with a formal arrest. Assuming without deciding that giving Miranda warnings can be considered in determining whether a suspect is in custody, the court concluded that defendant was not in custody during any part of his conversation with the law enforcement officer. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court’s suppression order.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Translated Miranda Warning Adequately Conveyed Intent of Warning

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Nguyen on Monday, October 2, 2017.

Miranda Warnings.

The Colorado Supreme Court held that a translated Miranda warning stating that if the suspect waived his right to be silent, “[a]ll you say will and may be used as evidence in court,” reasonably conveyed to defendant that anything he said could be used against him in court. By informing him that his statements could be used in court, the translation included the concept that the statements could be used against him (as well as for him) in court. The court also held that a Miranda warning stating that “if you do not have money to hire an attorney the court will instruct you, will appoint a person to you at no cost to represent you before asking questions” adequately conveyed the right to an appointed attorney.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Miranda Advisement Adequately Conveyed to Defendant Right to Attorney

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Carter v. People on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Criminal Law—Miranda Warnings—Jury Deliberations.

Carter petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment in People v. Carter, 2015 COA 36, ___ P.3d ___, which affirmed, among others, his conviction of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. With regard to a videotaped interrogation by the police, the district court denied a motion to suppress defendant’s statements, rejecting all of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, including his assertion that he had not been adequately advised, as required by Miranda v. Arizona, of his right to have an attorney present during interrogation. It also denied defendant’s motion to limit access to that videotape during jury deliberations. In a fractured opinion, in which all three members of the division of the court of appeals wrote separately, the intermediate appellate court affirmed with regard to both of these assignments of error.

The supreme court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. Because the Miranda advisement of defendant reasonably conveyed that he had a right to consult with counsel, both before and during any interrogation by the police, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the jury unrestricted access to both a video recording and transcript of defendant’s custodial interrogation, the trial court did not err.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Statements to Military Investigator Considered Voluntary

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People in Interest of Z.T.T. on Monday, May 22, 2017.

Criminal Law—Evidence Suppression.

This interlocutory appeal required the Colorado Supreme Court to determine whether a defendant’s confession to an Army investigator during basic training was the product of coercion. The court held that, where a defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, knew he was free to leave an interview, and confessed to committing a crime during the course of a conversational, friendly interview devoid of coercive promises or threats, he gave his statements voluntarily. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Presence of Juvenile Defendant’s Parent Satisfies Statutory Requirement

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People in Interest of A.L.-C. on Monday, October 24, 2016.

The juvenile defendant, A.L.-C., was charged with sexual assault on a child after his little sister, B.O., reported that he had touched her inappropriately and had intercourse with her. Defendant’s mother, also the mother of B.O., had accompanied him to his forensic interview. During a recorded exchange in which Defendant, his mother, and his step-father discussed whether he would waive his Miranda rights, Defendant’s mother asked him if he understood his rights and he said he did. She informed him that she had to protect B.O. and chided him for never paying attention. Defendant told his mother that he would rather keep quiet. It was disputed whether he meant he would rather not talk to his mother or the detective.

Defendant’s mother was present for the entire forensic interview. At first, Defendant denied B.O.’s allegations, but after being confronted with details from an earlier interview with B.O., Defendant confessed. He was charged with sexual assault on a child.

Before trial, Defendant sought to suppress his statements in the forensic interview, arguing that that his mother’s presence did not satisfy the requirement in C.R.S. § 19-2-511(1) that a parent be present at the interview because his mother did not hold his interests “uppermost in mind.” The trial court agreed and suppressed Defendant’s statements. The People filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court regarding whether the statute required more than Defendant’s parent’s presence at the interview.

The supreme court analyzed the statute and determined its plain language required nothing more than a parent’s presence during advisement and interrogation. Defendant argued that the statute requires not only a parent’s presence, but also that the parent hold the defendant’s interest “uppermost in mind,” citing several cases. The supreme court distinguished case law advanced by Defendant, noting that in those cases it was not a parent present at the interview. The supreme court held that the shared interest analysis from the prior cases was inapposite because a parent was already in one of the statutorily defined categories. 

The court noted that although its holding may seem to differ from People v. Hayhurst, 571 P.2d 721 (Colo. 1977), it was actually in line with Hayhurst. In that case, the supreme court held that a parent could not fulfill his statutory role if his interests were adverse to his child’s. However, the court also held that the fact that the father was upset with his son did not necessarily mean their interests were adverse.

The supreme court reversed the trial court’s suppression order and remanded for further proceedings.

Colorado Supreme Court: Defendant’s Request for Lawyer was Ambiguous so Statements Admissible

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Kutlak on Monday, January 11, 2016.

Criminal Law—Fifth Amendment Right to Counsel—Invoking the Right to Counsel—Suppression of Statements.

The Supreme Court clarified that in determining whether a suspect in custody has made an unambiguous request for counsel, the proper standard under Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459 (1994), is whether “a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement to be a request for an attorney.” Applying this standard, the Court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, defendant did not unambiguously and unequivocally invoke his right to counsel. Because defendant did not invoke his right to counsel, and because he otherwise validly waived his Miranda rights before making incriminating statements, his statements should not have been suppressed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Officer’s Observation of Used Marijuana Pipe Sufficient to Provide Probable Cause for Search of Car

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Verigan on Thursday, September 25, 2015.

Warrantless Search of a Vehicle—Probable Cause—Motion to Suppress Evidence—Miranda Warning—Voluntary Statements.

After Verigan’s vehicle was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, in which Verigan was a passenger in the front seat, officers found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. She was found guilty of possession of two grams or less of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

On appeal, Verigan argued that the evidence obtained from the search of her vehicle should have been suppressed because Officer Mitchell’s observation of a used marijuana pipe and an unlabeled pill bottle, without more, did not give the officers probable cause to search the vehicle. The officer’s observation of a used marijuana pipe containing a burned substance that the officer could reasonably infer to be marijuana supported a reasonable belief that the vehicle could have contained marijuana, an illegal drug at the time of the search in 2011. Therefore, there was probable cause for the search of Verigan’s car, and the trial court properly denied her motion to suppress the evidence discovered during that search.

Verigan further argued that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress the statements she made to police at the scene and later at the station. Based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in Verigan’s situation would have had reason to believe that her freedom of action had been curtailed to the degree associated with a formal arrest and that she was in custody for Miranda purposes even though she had not been given a Miranda warning. Accordingly, the trial court erred by failing to suppress the statements she made to the officers before the Miranda advisement was given. However, because all of the improperly admitted statements that Verigan made in the pre-advisement interrogation were voluntary, and she repeated those statements in her properly admitted post-advisement statement, the improper admission of the pre-advisement statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.