Booking Question v. Interrogation

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) came down 44 years ago and yet there are criminal cases with suppression hearings on an almost daily basis.  In order for a violation of Miranda to occur, two things must be present: custody and interrogation.  Custody is just a question of whether a persons freedom of movement is restricted to the extent that a reasonable person would not feel free to leave, and thus tantamount to a formal arrest.  Custody is a less litigated issue in these cases, however whether an interrogation occurred is often a highly contested issue.

Interrogation is an express questioning or its functional equivalent.  Statements made by a suspect is prima facie involuntary and the burden is on the State to show that the statements were voluntary.  A primary way to show that statements were voluntary is to show that Miranda warnings were given.  However, the routine gathering of background information does not constitute an interrogation for the reason that it is not reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response, a requirement for a finding of interrogation.  Thus, if the question is just a routine gathering of background information Miranda warnings are not necessary and statements will not be suppressed due to a Miranda violation.

As you become familiar with police procedure you find out that there are often two sets of officers involved in any given case.  There are the officers who investigate the crime, and then there are officers who arrest the person pursuant to a warrant filed by the investigating officer.  These two sets of officers are separate and are not necessarily privy to the knowledge that the other officer has.  Additionally, the officers that arrest a suspect often never question a suspect and therefore often do not give Miranda warnings.  However, courts are aware of the danger that this poses, namely that officers could potentially collaborate in an attempt to violate Miranda by having the arresting officers ask questions beyond the routine background information all without the benefit of Miranda warnings.  Thus, while the arresting officers will not be imputed with the knowledge that an investigating officer has, they will not be allowed to ask questions other than routine background questions without first giving Miranda warnings.

Routine gathering of background information includes things such as where do you live, what are your injuries, or what special needs do you have due to your injuries.  The reason that is routine is because it doesn’t delve into the circumstances that surround how you came to live at a residence or get injured.  However, a question such as how did you come to live at your current residence or how did you get injured are questions that ask about the circumstances that lead to your situation.  Questions that ask about the circumstances are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response and thus could be considered an interrogation.  And if it is an interrogation, officers are required to give Miranda warnings prior to asking the questions or run the risk of having the statements deemed involuntary.

It is the job of a Criminal Defense Attorney to determine whether the police have complied with the procedures required of them.  It is the job of the court to determine whether the questions asked, without the benefit of Miranda warnings, are routine gathering of background information or tantamount to an interrogation.  Only an attorney licensed within the jurisdiction in which you are arrested can tell you whether your statements can or should be suppressed.

This blog is meant to be informative and does not constitute legal advice, and while I do encourage others to post and discuss this topic, I can not and will not respond to any questions as it can create a conflict of interest and possible ethical violations.



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