Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals has ruled that while all criminal suspects are to be afforded the rights as spelled out in a Miranda Warning – not every circumstance will require that they be notified of those rights.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys are troubled by this development, considering the ruling nearly 50 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona.
You may not be familiar with the details of the landmark case, but if you watch any television, you are likely aware that “Miranda rights” have to be read to arrested suspects – before they are questioned. Those rights include the right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney. Individuals who are not informed of those rights before they are questioned stand a very good chance of having everything said thereafter tossed by a judge. If whatever the suspect said in that interview was particularly crucial to the case, a suppression of that evidence could result in the dismissal of the charges.
So for the court to rule that this law does not apply in certain cases – that’s no small thing.
Here’s what happened, according to local news reports:
Back in 2007, a 27-year-old man had barricaded himself inside his apartment as deputies with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrived to arrest him for the murder of his father. The suspect was suicidal, and threatening to shoot himself if detectives entered his residence.
Over the telephone for more than two hours, a detective was attempting to convince the suspect to surrender peacefully. During the course of that conversation, the detective at times recorded portions of it.
The suspect did eventually surrender peaceably. However, portions of those recordings came up in the suspect’s murder trial. In part of the conversation, the suspect, who was reportedly abused by his father, is heard telling the detective that he made his father sob and beg for his life before he slashed his throat.
His defense attorney, who was trying to argue self-defense, maintained those recordings should never have been allowed as evidence, as the defendant was never read his Miranda rights by the detective. He contended that the suspect was effectively in custody, as he was surrounded by police with a warrant in hand and he was not free to leave.
However, the Broward Circuit Court judge determined that Miranda warnings are only required when a suspect is in custody, being interrogated. The case was later sent to the appellate court, which was asked to answer the specific question of whether a barricaded suspect, surrounded by police, is in fact in custody, and therefore entitled to a reading of his rights.
The appeals court in its review found that a barricaded suspect is not considered “in custody.” That is, the individual can hang up on law enforcement officers at any time. And in this case, the suspect actually called the detective – twice – throughout the course of the ordeal.
The appellate court noted that three other states had reached similar conclusions, and that, in a situation where the suspect is barricaded, a requirement to read a suspect his rights could result in a dangerous escalation of the situation.
The defendant, who received an 18-year-sentence, is deciding whether to appeal the case further to the Florida Supreme Court.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Court rules barricaded suspects not entitled to Miranda warning, March 14, 2013, By Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel
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