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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > October 2013 > Miranda and Confessions (Confession by Individual with Mild Mental Retardation): State of Ohio v. No

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Miranda and Confessions (Confession by Individual with Mild Mental Retardation): State of Ohio v. Noles

Question: When you ask an individual with mild mental retardation questions and he confesses to a crime, is that a legitimate confession and did you need to give him Miranda warnings?
Quick Answer: A confession is legitimate if it is voluntary and you can show the individual understood the situation and consequences of making the confession. As you know, Miranda only needs to be given in situations in which the individual is in custody. In this type of situation, the individual needs to understand he is not in custody.

State of Ohio v. Noles, Sixth Appellate District, Lucas County, Sept. 20, 2013.
Facts: After being accused of child rape, Billie Noles was interviewed by Detective Shelli Kilburn of the Toledo Police Department. Noles, an individual with mild mental retardation, was questioned at the police station for 48 minutes. At the beginning of the interview, Detective Kilburn told Noles he was able to leave at any time. Noles asked one time if he needed a lawyer, but Kilburn did not respond. During the interview, Noles admitted to sexual contact with the minor. At the end of the interview, Noles was released to go home. Noles later argued that statements and admissions made in the interview should be suppressed because he was not given his Miranda rights.
Importance: Peace officers often deal with people who are intoxicated or mentally impaired. Their mental state could impair their understanding of the situation and their legal rights. As an officer, sometimes you have to gauge what the suspect is capable of understanding in order to move forward with questioning. In this case, the court determined that Noles, although mildly mentally retarded, had full understanding of what was going on. Kilburn had explained Noles could leave at any time and stop the questioning. Noles listened, answered questions, and posed questions back concerning the legal system and his rights. The court determined that based on the totality of the circumstances, Noles’ confession was voluntary and a Miranda warning was not required.
Keep in Mind: During the interview, Noles asked Kilburn if he should get a lawyer. Kilburn did not answer him. A statement to trigger Miranda must be unambiguous or unequivocal, such as “I want a lawyer,” not “Do you think I need a lawyer?” In this case, the court determined that Noles did not invoke Miranda.
More on Miranda and Confessions
Should I say it again? During an interrogation session, you properly Mirandize the suspect, talk to him, and place him back in the holding cell. About three hours later, members of another police agency arrives to ask him questions. They ask him if he was read his Miranda rights in the booking area, he says, “yes.” They say that applies to the questions they will ask him. Are they correct?  Yes. In the case of Maurent, the court looked to determine when a Miranda warning had gone stale. In making the determination you should consider 1) the length of time between the first warning and second interrogation; 2) whether the warnings and second interview were done in two different places; 3) whether the first interview and second interview were conducted by the same officers; 4) whether the statements in the second interview are different than the first interview; and 5) the intellectual and emotional state of the suspect. In Maurent, based on a totality of the circumstances, the court determined the Miranda warnings had not gone stale after three hours. State of Ohio v. Maurent, Fifth Appellate District, Delaware County, Aug. 23, 2013.
Mine, Mine, Mine. … It’s all mine. After you obtain a search warrant for a home, the suspect assumes full responsibility for everything found in the house, which includes a large quantity of drugs, drug paraphernalia, packaging for distribution and cash. After you find a jacket on the couch with a bottle of pills, he changes his story and says the pills are not his. Can you state in the report the pills were in the suspect’s possession? In Flachbart, the court says yes. The statement “it’s all mine” gives you, a reasonable peace officer, the belief that every illegal drug in the house belongs to the suspect. You have circumstantial, but strong, evidence to include the pills in the report. The suspect will have the ability in court to prove they do not belong to him. State v. Flachbart, Eighth Appellate District, Cuyahoga County, Sept. 5, 2013.