Arizona police officers did not violate a homeless man's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when they questioned him about a burglary before reading him his Miranda rights, according to a new ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court.
The man, who confessed to burglary before being issued a Miranda warning, had sought to have his confession excluded as evidence against him.
In April 2013, an officer responding to a call about a possible burglary, found Carlos Andrews Maciel sitting near a boarded up building. The officer asked for identification and patted him down in a search for weapons. Finding no weapons or outstanding warrants, the officer questioned Maciel before asking him to sit in his patrol car until another officer arrived. When the second officer arrived, Maciel was asked to sit on the curb. Initially, Maciel said he didn't know about the break-in, but upon continued questioning, he admitted to removing a board from a window and entering the building to look for money.
After the officers searched the building and finding nothing missing, they arrested Maciel for unboarding the window and entering the building. He was then handcuffed and advised of his Miranda rights. A jury found Maciel guilty of burglary. He was sentenced to a month in jail and placed on intensive probation for three years.
In the Arizona Supreme Court decision, justices stated that even though "no reasonable person would have felt free to simply walk away" from the officers, Maciel wasn't actually in custody when he confessed. That is because the officers questioned him in public, the on-scene investigation lasted less than an hour and Maciel was not threatened or taken elsewhere to be questioned. The justices said the questioning did not amount to the "coercive pressures" used in the criminal case that spawned the Miranda warning.
In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in Miranda v. Arizona that established the principle that all criminal suspects must be advised of their rights before interrogation. As a matter of procedure, officers of the law now advise suspects under arrest: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you.”
The impetus for the Miranda warning was a 1963 Phoenix-area rape case. Police picked up Ernesto Miranda on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old woman. Even though the victim did not identify him as her attacker, police interrogated him. Miranda confessed to the rape, but later recanted. Even though the supposed confession and the victim's account of the crime differed, Miranda was found guilty at trial and sentenced to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union took up his appeal, claiming that the confession was coerced. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction, but Miranda was retried and convicted again in October 1966.
No matter the crime or the circumstances, every defendant has a right to representation by a qualified attorney. If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.