Most of us have heard the term Miranda warning at some point in our lives, but what are Miranda warnings? When do they matter? In a nutshell, Miranda warnings come into play when an individual is taken into police custody. Police are to give an individual his or her Miranda warnings before interrogating the individual. Miranda warnings, such as the right to remain silent, are designed to put an individual on notice of his or her Constitutionally protected rights. Failure to give an individual their Miranda warnings can result in an exclusion of any criminal statements made by the individual. But, as the Court of Appeals recently pointed out in Hudson v. State1, every situation is fact sensitive, requiring a case by case analysis. This key case is the focus of this blog post.
In Hudson, the defendant was appealing the trial court’s decision to deny his motion to suppress evidence of statements made to a police officer, arguing that he should have been read his Miranda rights. The relevant facts are as follows. Officer Wright received a call that a domestic disturbance was occurring between a divorced couple and that the ex-husband possibly had a gun. Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Wright put the ex-husband, Hudson, in handcuffs to de-escalate the situation. A witness at the scene told Officer Wright that Hudson and his ex-wife had gotten into an argument. When the daughter tried to intervene, Hudson pushed her out of the way, causing her to fall to the ground. Officer Wright then learned from the daughter that Hudson proceeded to go to his vehicle, pull out a handgun and cock it. Officer Wright looked in the vehicle and saw an empty holster. Officer Wright then read Hudson his Miranda warnings and asked Hudson where the gun was. Hudson told him, and Hudson was subsequently arrested and charged with felony intimidation.
At the trial, Hudson filed a motion to suppress, arguing that his statements made to the officer before he was read his Miranda warnings should be suppressed. The trial court denied the motion and Hudson appealed. On appeal, the Court recognized that putting Hudson in handcuff’s constituted “custody” for Miranda purposes. However, the Court did not believe Hudson was “interrogated” by Officer Wright before he was read his Miranda warnings. Instead, Officer Wright’s questions, according to the Court, “amounted to an inquiry into the facts of the situation,” and as such, did not require Miranda warnings. In upholding the denial of the motion to suppress, the Court pointed out that Officer Wright was informed that there may be a gun at the scene of the dispute. Therefore, asking the whereabouts of the gun, without asking specific details about the gun, were simply “general, on the scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime.”
This case highlights the importance of staying up to date on the ever-changing legal landscape. Knowing the status of developments in the law is the key to avoiding criminal liability, as well as being an engaged citizen in our participatory system of government. This blog post on a key new case was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense cases and appeals of criminal convictions throughout the state. This blog is written for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.