The Miranda Trigger

bestmilitarydefenseucmjdefenselawyer210The requirement for Miranda warnings is triggered by initiation of custodial interrogation.

  1. What is the test for custody?
    a. A person is in custody if he is taken into custody, could reasonably believe himself to be in custody, or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.
    See Mil. R. Evid. 305(d)(1)(A).
    b. Custody is evaluated based on an objective test from the perspective of a “reasonable” subject.
    c. Stansbury v. California , 511 U.S. 318 (1994). In 1994, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the test for custody under Miranda is an objective examination of whether there was formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest. The subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officer or the person being questioned are irrelevant. Why? It was the coercive aspect of custodial interrogation, and not the strength or content of the government’s suspicions at the time of the questioning, which led to imposition of the Miranda requirements.
    d. United States v. Miller , 46 M.J. 80 (C.A.A.F. 1997). The CAAF applied the following “mixed question of law and fact” analysis in determining custody: 1) what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation (question of fact); and, 2) given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave (question of law). Applying this objective standard, the court found no custody where the accused (1) was not under formal arrest; (2) voluntarily accepted an invitation to talk with an officer about the alleged misconduct; (3) voluntarily participated in the interview; (4) was treated cordially by the officer; and, (5) was left alone in the station house for a short period of time.
    e. United States v. Miller , 48 M.J. 49 (C.A.A.F. 1998). After receiving a report about a gang robbery, an MP detained the accused to ascertain his identity and whereabouts during the evening. The CAAF determined that
    Miranda warnings were not required because the accused was not in custody. [Note: This is a different Miller
    than the case above, 46 M.J. 80.]
    bestmilitarydefensedefenseattorneys9.47.04PMUnited States v. Chatfield, 67 M.J. 432 (C.A.A.F. 2009). The CAAF cited Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99 (1995), for the proposition that two inquiries are necessary to determine custody: 1) what are the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and, 2) would a reasonable person in those circumstances have felt that he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation. Despite the fact that questioning occurred in the station house, the CAAF held that appellant appeared there voluntarily, that the interrogation occurred in the detective’s office instead of an interrogation room, and the duration of the interrogation all point to the fact that a reasonable person would not find that the appellant was in custody. No
    Miranda warnings were required.
  2. Situation and location factors for determining custody.
    a. Roadside stops. Berkemer v. McCarty , 468 U.S. 420 (1984). Highway patrol stopped a car that was weaving and, without giving Miranda warnings, asked the driver if he had used intoxicants. Court found no custody for
    Miranda purposes because: (1) motorist expects detention will be brief; and, (2) stop is in “public” and less “police dominated.” “[T]he safeguards prescribed by Miranda become applicable as soon as a suspect’s freedom of action is curtailed to a ‘degree associated with formal arrest.’” The initially uncommunicated decision by the police to arrest the driver does not bear on whether the defendant is “in custody.”
    See also United States v. Rodriguez , 44 M.J. 766 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. 1996) (questioning of suspect about illegal gun sales during roadside stop was noncustodial), aff’d , 60 M.J. 239 (C.A.A.F. 2004).
    b. In the bedroom. Orozco v. Texas , 394 U.S. 324 (1969). Suspect was “in custody” for Miranda purposes where he was questioned in his bedroom and an officer testified the suspect was not free to go, but was “under arrest.”
    c. Age is not a factor. Yarborough v. Alvarado , 541 U.S. 652 (2004). The Supreme Court overruled the 9th Circuit’s determination that Miranda required courts to consider a defendant’s age and his lack of a prior criminal history in determining custody. The Court noted that Miranda established an objective test for custody. Age and prior criminal experience are individual characteristics of a suspect, which if required for a custody determination, would create a subjective test.
    d. Military status as a factor in custody evaluation. United States v. Jordan , 44 C.M.R. 44 (C.M.A. 1971). Questioning by a superior is not per se custodial, but “questioning by a commanding officer or military police or investigators at which the accused is given an Article 31 warning, strongly suggests that an accused is also entitled to a right to counsel warning under Miranda and Tempia.”
    e. Coercive environment. Illinois v. Perkins , 496 U.S. 292 (1990). “[A]n undercover law enforcement officer posing as a fellow inmate need not give Miranda warnings to an incarcerated suspect before asking questions that may elicit an incriminating response” about an uncharged offense. “ Miranda forbids coercion, not strategic deception by taking advantage of a suspect’s misplaced trust in one he supposes to be a fellow prisoner.”
  3. Interrogation. Mil. R. Evid. 305(b)(2). “‘Interrogation’ includes any formal or informal questioning in which an incriminating response either is sought or is a reasonable consequence of such questioning.” Note: the term “interrogation” has the same meaning under the Fifth Amendment as it does for Article 31(b) (
    see infra Sec. IV. G. 3. [When must warnings be given?] of this outline).

Article 31(b)

Military status as a factor in custody evaluation