August 17, 2018

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.