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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > August 2015 > Miranda Warnings: State v. Duhamel, 2015 Ohio 3145

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Miranda Warnings: State v. Duhamel, 2015 Ohio 3145

Question: Are Miranda warnings required when police questioning takes place at the unarrested suspect’s kitchen table as a search warrant is being executed in the suspect’s home?

Quick Answer: No. Miranda warnings must be given in cases of custodial interrogation. If either element is missing, Miranda warnings are not required.

Facts: Detectives were investigating a child pornography case. Utilizing file sharing software and the IP address supplied by the service provider, investigators were able to connect directly to Duhamel’s computer located at his residence. A search warrant was executed at Duhamel’s residence and a video-recorded interview was conducted at the kitchen table. Before any questions were posed, Duhamel was advised he was not under arrest and that he was not required to answer any questions if he did not want to. This reminder was echoed throughout the interview. Duhamel spoke freely with police, and at times initiated conversation. Duhamel made statements that were utilized in the criminal case against him. Duhamel contends he should have been given Miranda warnings before the questioning because, although he was not under arrest, he was, for all intents and purposes, in police custody.

Importance: Custodial interrogation hinges on whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave the interview under the totality of the circumstances presented at the time. In this case, the Court concluded Duhamel was reminded several times that he did not have to answer any questions if he did not want to. The Court also noted that there was nothing accusatorial, threatening or overbearing. Duhamel was never handcuffed and did not appear overly nervous: in fact, he initiated conversation at times.

Keep in Mind: The determination of what constitutes “custody” does not depend on the subjective feelings of the accused or subjective, unarticulated goals of police. The focus is on the perception a reasonable person would have under the circumstances. Therefore, it is important to document relevant considerations such as where the conversation took place, who was present, and what the suspect was able to do (or not do).