Nature of the accusation.
An individual must be provided a frame of reference for the impending interrogation by being told generally about all known offenses. “It is not necessary to spell out the details . . . with technical nicety.” Informing the accused that he was suspected of larceny of ship’s store funds was held sufficient to cover wrongful appropriation of store funds during an earlier period. United States v. Quintana , 5 M.J. 484 (C.M.A. 1978). See also United States v. Rogers , 47 M.J. 135 (C.A.A.F. 1997) (informing of “sexual assault” of one victim held sufficient to orient the accused to the offense of rape of a separate victim that occurred 4 years earlier).
- United States v. Kelley , 48 M.J. 677 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 1998). Advising the accused that he was going to be questioned about rape implicitly included the offense of burglary. The ACCA determined that the burglary was a part of the accused’s plan to commit the rape. Therefore, by informing the accused that he was suspected of rape, he was sufficiently oriented to the particular incident, even though it involved several offenses.
- Whether the stated warning sufficiently provided notice of the accusation is tested on the basis of the totality of the circumstances. For example, in United States v. Erie , 29 M.J. 1008 (A.C.M.R. 1990), a rights warning for suspected use of hashish was judged sufficient to cover distribution of hashish and cocaine. The court found that the rights warning oriented accused to that fact that the investigation was focused on controlled substances. See also United States v. Pipkin , 58 M.J. 358 (C.A.A.F. 2003) (warning covering distribution of a controlled substance was sufficient to cover conspiracy to distribute).
- The requirement to advise a suspect/accused concerning the nature of the accusation is a continuing responsibility. If, during the course of an interrogation, the questions will address offenses not described in the initial warning, an additional warning must be provided. For example, in United States v. Huelsman , 27 M.J. 511 (A.C.M.R. 1988), an initial warning that the accused was suspected of “larceny by uttering worthless checks” was not sufficient to cover offenses involving possession and distribution of marijuana. When the agent learned that the reason for writing the checks related to drugs, the accused became a suspect for drug offenses and was entitled to an additional Article 31(b) warning. But see United States v. Kelley , 48 M.J. 677 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 1998) (investigators did not have to halt the interrogation and renew rights warnings when the accused stated that he had provided false information. The questioning centered on the rape and the burglary, and not the false statements).
- United States v. Simpson , 54 M.J. 281 (C.A.A.F. 2000). Advising the appellant that he was suspected of indecent acts or liberties with a child was held sufficient to focus him toward the circumstances surrounding the event and to inform him of the general nature of the allegations, to include rape, indecent assault, and sodomy of the same child. When determining whether the nature of the accusation requirement has been met, the court will examine: whether the conduct is part of a continuous sequence of events; whether the conduct was within the frame of reference supplied by the warnings; and, whether the interrogator had previous knowledge of an unwarned offense