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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > June 2014 > Miranda (Custodial Interrogation): Ohio v. Jones

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Miranda (Custodial Interrogation): Ohio v. Jones

Question: Do you need to give Miranda if a person voluntarily speaks to you and you inform him he is free to leave and not under arrest?
Quick Answer: No, unless the circumstances change and the conversation becomes a custodial interrogation.

State v. Jones, Fifth Appellate District, Ashland County, April 21, 2014
Facts: Officer Kim Mager was investigating the alleged sexual molestation of a child by Elmer Joseph Jones. In an unrelated matter, Mager went to Jones’ home to retrieve evidence. Jones was told he was not under arrest and that he could tell her to leave at any time. While Mager was in the home, Jones asked her questions about the potential punishment for molestation. Mager also mentioned the current investigation and told Jones the sexual things with the child should not have happened. Jones responded that he knew and that it wasn’t happening any longer because he was staying away from kids. Mager was in the home for about 20 minutes when Jones told her he had to leave. Mager told Jones if he wanted to speak more, she was available. About a month later, Jones requested a meeting with Mager, and the two spoke in her car. Jones was in the passenger seat and was advised the doors were unlocked, he was not under arrest, and he could walk away any time. Jones talked to Mager for about an hour and 15 minutes. She repeatedly asked Jones to be honest with her after he denied the allegations a few times. Eventually, Jones admitted to sexual activity with the child. At the end of the interview, Mager did not arrest Jones. He was later picked up, arrested, and taken to the county jail. At the county jail, Mager gave Jones Miranda and interviewed him a second time. He recanted his prior admissions, but ultimately confessed to the sexual activity and was charged. He later filed a motion to suppress his statements.
Importance: As you know, Miranda warnings only have to be given when someone is in custodial interrogation. A conversation is not custodial if a reasonable person believes he is free to leave your presence. To make this determination, factors to consider include the location of questioning, the individual’s status as a suspect, any restriction on freedom of movement (handcuffs, locked doors, etc.), if neutral parties were present during questions, and the tone, language, and behavior of the officer. The court looked to the situation of the questioning and Officer Mager’s behavior to find she did not create a custodial interrogation, therefore Miranda was not necessary.
Keep in Mind: This case also features a two-stage interrogation. In Missouri v. Seibert, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the practice of using a two-stage interrogation, in which Miranda was intentionally withheld until a confession was made and then given so the confession could be repeated, was not proper. In cases in which courts find police use this practice as an intentional interrogation strategy, the second confession can be suppressed because the first was illegally obtained due to the intentional withholding of Miranda. The timing of the second confession to the first is a key to this determination: The closer in time the second is to the first, the more it seems like an improper strategy was used.
More on Miranda
  • Maybe I have an attorney, maybe I don’t. While investigating the death of a child, you speak to the father. He tells you that an attorney advised him not to speak to the police. But he later clarifies that the attorney actually does not represent him, but worked on a neglect case involving his child. He continues talking and at one point he states, “I did it.” The father is convicted of murder based on this statement. Did the suspect invoke his Miranda rights by mentioning the attorney? The court in Smith says no. A mere reference to an attorney does not trigger Miranda unless a reasonable officer would believe the suspect “might” be invoking right to counsel. Based on the totality of the circumstances in this case, the suspect did not clearly and unambiguously request counsel. He simply relayed advice an attorney gave him. State of Ohio v. Smith, First Appellate District, Hamilton County, May 9, 2014
  • I don’t think you said that correctly. You are dispatched to an apartment complex where an apartment manager is holding a man down on the ground. The manager tells the man was involved in a shooting. You handcuff the man and put him in the patrol car. You review the surveillance tapes with the manager and watch the man shoot out a lighting fixture. You go back to the patrol car, let the man know he is under arrest, and give Miranda from memory. In reciting Miranda, you forget to include the phrase “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” The man tells you he understands and asks why he was arrested. You tell him, and he states he shot out the light because the “drug boys” gave him the gun to do so because they were being filmed. Does the statement come in? The court in Hall says yes. Although the officer did not give Miranda correctly, Robin Hall’s statement was made as a result of the custodial interrogation, but was a voluntary statement made without questioning by the officer. Remember that you must give full Miranda warnings for a waiver to be effective. The court may have come to a different conclusion if it found Hall was under custodial interrogation. State v. Hall, Eighth Appellate District, Cuyahoga County, April 24, 2014