Suppression of Statements Taken In Violation of Miranda Affirmed

US v. Revels, No. 06-5223 (12/20/07): Government took interlocutory appeal from order of district court suppressing defendant’s statements for Miranda violation and Tenth Circuit affirmed. Defendant and her boyfriend were in bed when cops executed search warrant at 6:00 a.m. They handcuffed her and made her lie face down on the floor for about ten minutes. They then uncuffed her, allowed her to dress and care for an infant, and made her sit with her boyfriend while they conducted the search. After the search was completed, three cops took her to a bedroom, closed the door, and began to question her. They also confronted her with a bag of cocaine found during the search. Not surprisingly, she made incriminating statements. At no time was she told she was free to leave.

The government’s main argument was that the defendant was under “investigative detention” and not formally arrested until after the questioning, so that Miranda did not apply. The Tenth rejected this attempt to conflate the Fourth Amendment analysis of the reasonableness of an investigative detention with the Fifth Amendment analysis of custody, just as it had previously done in US v. Perdue, 8 F.3d 1455 (10th Cir. 1993). Turning to the latter, the Tenth agreed with the district court that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have understood her freedom of action to have been restricted to a degree consistent with formal arrest. Even though the questioning occurred in the defendant’s home, the atmosphere at the time was clearly dominated by the police, who had complete control of the situation. Plus, she had been isolated from her boyfriend, questioned by herself in a closed room, and confronted with incriminating evidence, together indicating that she was in custody. Nor had she been told that she was free to leave or at liberty to terminate the questioning. Finally, the questioning occurred after the search had been completed and contraband had been found. Placing the defendant and her boyfriend under arrest were all that remained to be done at the residence, as the defendant must have known was going to happen.