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Defendant Alleges Police Used Unconstitutional Two-Stage Interrogation Techniques to Elicit Confession

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution grant persons accused of crimes the right to remain silent in the face of police questioning. The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda vs. Arizona has defined this constitutional right by requiring police to give an in-custody suspect Miranda warnings before questioning them about alleged criminal activity. Miranda warnings instruct suspects that they do not need to answer any police questions and that any responses they give can be used as evidence against them if they face criminal charges. The law concerning a suspect’s Miranda rights is not always cut and dry, however, and statements given after a valid Miranda warning still may be inadmissible under some circumstances. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently ruled on an appeal filed by a defendant who alleged that statements he made to police after he was given his Miranda warnings should not have been admitted at his attempted murder trial.

The defendant from the recently decided appeal was stopped by police for his alleged involvement in a shootout with police that had occurred earlier in the day of his arrest. The defendant was injured with a gunshot wound at the time of his arrest and he was taken to the hospital for treatment under police supervision. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant engaged in “small talk” with the police officers while he was at the hospital before he was given any Miranda warnings, and he made incriminating statements.

After the defendant’s condition was stabilized and he was released from the hospital, he was placed under arrest for attempted murder. After his arrest, the defendant was questioned by another officer, who read him his Miranda rights. During this second round of questioning, the defendant made more incriminating statements. At trial, the defiant challenged the admission of both rounds of statements. The trial court suppressed the first round of statements but admitted the second round because the defendant had been read his Miranda rights before making them. A jury ultimately convicted the defendant of attempted murder.

The defendant appealed his conviction to the Arizona Court of Appeals, arguing that the second round of statements that he made to police were not admissible because they came from an unconstitutional two-stage interrogation in which the police deliberately elicited inadmissible statements before a Miranda warning was given, and then asked the defendant to repeat the statements he already made once the warning was given. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that such a two-step interrogation was not permissible, but upheld the admission of the defendant’s second round of statutes because there was no coordinated attempt to deliberately obtain statements in violation of Miranda. The court noted that the officer who questioned the defendant second did not even know at the time of questioning that the defendant had made incriminating statements to another officer at the hospital. As a result of the appellate ruling, the defendant’s conviction will be upheld.

Strategies to Use in the Face of Police Questioning?

If you are being questioned by police for allegedly participating in criminal activity, you do not need to answer any questions they ask. Police use initial questioning as a method to gather evidence and support a later conviction. It is always best to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and request an attorney be present before answering any questions. If you already have made incriminating statements to police and are facing criminal charges as a result, a skilled Arizona criminal defense lawyer may be able to keep your statements from being used against you. Attorney James E. Novak has successfully argued to suppress evidence in criminal cases, and countless charges have been dismissed as a result. If you’re concerned about the charges against you, contact us and we’ll start working on your defense today To schedule a free consultation and discuss your case, call 480-413-1499.


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