The Court holds that once the defendant is released from custody (and that includes being returned to general population in prison, which is not “in custody” for Miranda purposes), the police may re-initiate questioning after fourteen days. In other words, if the defendant invokes his right to counsel and is later released from custody, the police must wait at least fourteen days prior to contacting the defendant and interrogating him.Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 124 S.Ct. 2140 (2004)In this habeas case, the Supreme Court held that the state court did not unreasonably apply controlling Supreme Court doctrine when it held that a suspect’s age is not factor to be considered in deciding whether he is “in custody” for Miranda purposes. The Court did not definitively hold that age is not a factor, but simply held that in the context of a habeas petition, the state court did not err in holding that age is not a factor.
DocketDecision below (N.C. supreme court)Question Presented:Whether, in the context of interrogating a juvenile in a school setting, “custody” for purposes of triggering Miranda warnings is determined by a purely objective test; or includes subjective considerations such as the subject’s age and status as a special education student.Scotusblog pageThe nub of the lower court holding: … This Court adheres to the view that “the custody inquiry states an objective rule designed to give clear guidance to the police, while consideration of a suspect’s individual characteristics–including his age–could be viewed as creating a subjective inquiry.” Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 668, 124 S. Ct. 2140, 2151-52, 158 L. Ed. 2d 938, 954 (2004) (citing Mathiason, 429 U.S. at 495-96, 97 S. Ct. at 714, 50 L. Ed. 2d at 719).1 Under the circumstances of the case sub judice, we decline to extend the test for custody to include consideration of the age and academic standing of an individual subjected to questioning by police.At the time, J.D.B. was a 13-year-old, special ed middle-schooler, interrogated in a closed conference room at his school. The lower court dissent joins the issue this way:The issue in this case is whether J.D.B., a thirteen-year old special education student at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was significantly deprived of his freedom of movement and thus entitled to the protections of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.C.G.S. § 7B- 2101(a) before being interrogated by law enforcement officers and school officials in a closed conference room of the middle school.
The court described the Simmons rule as a general rule, giving the state court's a lot of flexibility in how to apply it. It stated:As the Supreme Court stated in Yarborough [v. Alvarado 541 U.S. 652 (2004)], “evaluating whether a rule application was unreasonable requires considering the rule’s specificity. The more general the rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case determinations.”
Once considered in this proper light, the conclusion that Dassey’s statement was involuntary under the totality of the circumstances is not one about which “fairminded jurists could disagree.” See [Harrington v.] Richter, 562 U.S. [86,] 101 [(2011)] (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Consequently, the court finds that the confession Dassey gave to the police on March 1, 2006 was so clearly involuntary in a constitutional sense that the court of appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.
At the very least, the state court would not have been unreasonable to so conclude. Cf. Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U. S. 652, 664 (2004) (explaining that state courts enjoy “more leeway” under AEDPA in applying general standards).Slip op., p. 11.
(The closest it has come is deciding in a habeas corpus case that it was not "unreasonable" under deferential AEDPA review for a state court to not use age as a factor. Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004).)My hunch is that the defense-friendly facts in J.D.B. may indicate the court will hold that age is a proper factor, especially where, as here, it was obvious to the police that the suspect was a 13- year-old seventh-grader.
Nothing in Carrie’s demand would lead a reasonable person in Torkelson’s position to believe he was in the custody of the State while at the police station.  Torkelson relies on Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652 (2004). However,Yarborough involved a minor brought to the police station by his parents.