People v. Garza, 2018 IL App (3d) 170525 (December). Episode 570 (Duration 7:03)
In a close one the reviewing court agrees to suppress these statements made on the roadside after a traffic stop.
The State charged defendant, by information, with one count each of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(c)), unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(d)), and possession of drug paraphernalia (720 ILCS 600/3.5(a) 2).
Defendant filed a motion to suppress confession. 725 ILCS 5/114-11 (West 2016).
The motion alleged that defendant made an incriminating statement during a custodial interrogation without being advised of his Miranda rights. As a result, defendant sought suppression of the statements that he had made in response to the police questioning.
The Traffic Stop
A mini-van with 5 individuals inside it was stopped for speeding.
The officer radioed for back-up and when it arrived the initial officer transferred the citation preparation duties to the second officer and conducted a free-air sniff with his canine unit. Approximately 10 minutes into the stop, the canine alerted to the presence of narcotics at the rear of the minivan.
More back-up was requested and the occupants were directed to exit the minivan. The two officer searched each of the occupants as they exited the vehicle. The officers did not ask for consent to search. The search was more than a pat-down and included searching inside the occupants’ pockets, waistbands, hats, socks, and shoes.
ID’s were gathered and warrant checks were done.
After this search, the officer directed the five occupants to move to an area near his patrol vehicle. Two uniformed police officers watched the occupants while the two officers conducted a search of the interior of the minivan.
During the vehicle search, the officer found a backpack in the trunk area.
Inside of the backpack, he saw what appeared to be illicit substances and pipes used to consume narcotics. Postarrest analysis indicated that the backpack contained 13.8 grams of marijuana and 1.8 grams of cocaine.
Following his discovery, the officer removed the suspected contraband from the backpack, concluded the search of the minivan, and approached the occupants.
The officer asked the occupants who owned the backpack.
At the time, none of the occupants had received Miranda warnings and at least two additional plain clothed police detectives had arrived at the scene for a total police presence of six officers. In response to the officer’s question, defendant indicated that he owned the backpack.
Defendant was placed in handcuffs and then asked by the officer “whose bag is this?” and “what is this white powder?” Defendant said the powder was cocaine.
Trial Court Ruling
The trial court found that the restraint imposed upon defendant was comparable to a formal arrest. The court concluded that “not only would a reasonable person believe they were not free to leave, I also find that there—that the restraint imposed upon the subjects were comparable to those associated with a formal arrest.”
The court granted defendant’s motion.
The State argues that the circuit court erred in granting defendant’s motion to suppress statements because defendant was not subject to a custodial interrogation that would require the issuance of Miranda warnings.
In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966), the United States Supreme Court prescribed a set of prophylactic warnings that a police officer must provide to a suspect before conducting a “custodial interrogation.” These warnings are intended to protect a suspect’s fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 444 (1974).
Miranda was motivated by concerns “that the ‘interrogation environment’ created by the interplay of interrogation and custody would ‘subjugate the individual to the will of his examiner’ and thereby undermine the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination.” Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 299 (1980) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 457-58).
The Miranda warnings assure that any inculpatory statement made by an individual held in custody is not simply the product of “ ‘the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings.’ ” Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 661 (2004) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 458). Miranda further holds that where an individual is subject to a custodial interrogation without the benefit of the prescribed warnings, the prosecution may not use that individual’s inculpatory or exculpatory statements at trial. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 492.
“Custodial interrogation” means “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” It consists of two elements:
(1) whether an individual was subject to interrogation and
(2) whether the interrogation occurred in a custodial situation.
People v. Tayborn, 2016 IL App (3d) 130594, ¶¶ 18-19. See additional confession cases.
Was It An Interrogation?
First, we find that the officer’s first question—“Whose backpack is this?”—called for an incriminating response because the officer knew that the backpack contained illicit substances and drug paraphernalia. An interrogation is any practice that police should know is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect. Therefore, the first question, about the ownership of the backpack, was interrogatory.
Second, we find that the officer’s question about the white powder substance found inside the backpack also was interrogatory. This question also called for an incriminating response—an identification of the contraband that the officer believed to be narcotics.
Therefore, both of the questions were interrogatory, and we next must determine whether defendant was in custody at the time that the officer posed these questions.
Police Are Allowed To Ask General Questions
We note that our opinion is not intended to limit the ability of the police to pose sufficiently general questions.
With regard to these “general, on the-scene” questions, Miranda explains:
“Our decision is not intended to hamper the traditional function of police officers in investigating crime. When an individual is in custody on probable cause, the police may, of course, seek out evidence in the field to be used at trial against him. Such investigation may include inquiry of persons not under restraint. General on-the-scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime or other general questioning of citizens in the fact-finding process is not affected by our holding. It is an act of responsible citizenship for individuals to give whatever information they may have to aid in law enforcement. In such situations the compelling atmosphere inherent in the process of in-custody interrogation is not necessarily present.”
Miranda, 384 U.S. at 477-78. This explanation contemplates that the “general on-the-scene questioning” exception will apply only when police pose general questions in a noncustodial environment to nonsuspects regarding the facts that surround a crime.
By using phrases like “in the field” and “persons not under restraint,” the Supreme Court indicates that this exception truly only applies to circumstances where the interviewed individual is subject to few, if any, indication of formal custody. In these noncustodial circumstances, the citizen-witnesses do not need the protections of the Miranda warnings because they are
(1) not subject to the compelling pressures of police custody,
(2) not suspects with a fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and
(3) providing general information about the “facts surrounding a crime”.
This Miranda exception is almost expressly directed at scenarios where police officers openly speak with unrestrained bystanders who witnessed a crime. This exception does not apply in the instant case because defendant was subject to the compelling pressures of police custody.
The officer had reason to suspect that defendant had committed a narcotics offense, and the officer’s question sought an incriminating statement from defendant that established the actus reus of the crime, instead of the generic facts surrounding the crime.
When Is An Individual In Custody?
The determination of whether defendant was “in custody” for purposes of Miranda includes two discrete inquiries:
(1) what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation? and
(2) given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt that he was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave?
Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112 (1995). The custody inquiry is an objective test. The following factors are determinative of whether a suspect was in a custodial setting:
- the location
- mode of interrogation
- the number of police officers present
- the presence or absence of the family and friends of the accused
- any indication of formal arrest
- the age
- intelligence and
- mental makeup of the accused.
People v. Havlin, 409 Ill. App. 3d 427, 434 (2011).
Were They Occupants In Custody?
The investigation deviated from its traffic stop origin when the officer’s canine alerted to the presence of narcotics in the minivan that defendant was a passenger. At this point, the “nonthreatening character” of the stop began to dissipate, and the stop started to evolve into a custodial situation. See, e.g., People v. Jordan, 2011 IL App (4th) 100629 (traffic stop for a seatbelt violation transformed into a drug search and custodial interrogation where the passenger was locked in a squad car, isolated from the driver, and was told police intended to send for a drug-detection canine); People v. Rivera, 304 Ill. App. 3d 124, 129 (1999) (purpose of on-the-scene investigatory stop ended when a bag of suspected cocaine was removed from defendant’s vehicle and the officers’ reasonable suspicion of criminal activity developed into probable cause of defendant’s involvement in cocaine delivery).
The officer directed the vehicle occupants to exit the minivan and subjected the occupants to a thorough search.
Following the search, the officer directed the five occupants to stand in an area near his patrol vehicle. Two uniformed police officers watched the occupants while 2 other officers searched the minivan. During the vehicle search, two additional police officers arrived at the scene for a total police presence of six officers.
During the vehicle search, the officer discovered a backpack that contained an illicit substance and drug paraphernalia. He then concluded the vehicle search and asked the group of occupants, as a whole, who owned the backpack.
We find that these circumstances would cause a reasonable person to feel that he was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave the scene. Thompson, 516 U.S. at 112. At the time of the question, defendant and the other occupants had been subjected to several exercises of police authority that evidenced a growing custodial atmosphere.
First, the directed all of the vehicle occupants to exit the minivan and then conducted a thorough search of each occupant. This search was akin to a search incident to arrest as it exceeded the scope of a search for weapons and appeared to search for evidence of a criminal offense. See People v. Flowers, 179 Ill. 2d 257, 263 (1997) (purpose of a pat-down search is to protect the officer and others in the vicinity, not to gather evidence). Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 338 (2009) (search incident to arrest exception to the warrant requirement derives from interests in officer safety and evidence preservation that are implicated in arrest situations). While the validity of this search is not at issue, the search itself evidenced a growing custodial atmosphere.
Second, Allspaugh directed the five occupants to move away from their minivan and stand near his police vehicle where two uniformed officers watched over them. Thereafter, the police presence grew to outnumber the occupants as two additional officers arrived on the scene for a total of six officers and five occupants. Although none of the officers told the occupants that they were not free to leave, their overwhelming presence would cause a reasonable person to question their ability to merely walk away without permission. Moreover, the occupants’ departure from the scene was rendered impractical by the lack of access to their vehicle. Together, these circumstances established the type of coercive custodial environment that Miranda is intended to address.
A reasonable person, in these circumstances, would not have felt at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. Therefore, defendant was in custody when the officer asked who owned the backpack. Further, when the officer asked the second question, about the white powder substance, the custodial environment was even more apparent as defendant was then in handcuffs.
Therefore, we conclude that the circuit court did not err when it suppressed defendant’s custodial and unMirandized statements.
People v. Havlin
The instant case differs from People v. Havlin, 409 Ill. App. 3d 427, 434 (2011) in two major respects.
First, there is no express indication that the officer’s initial pat-down was motivated by the officer’s safety concern. Unlike Horn, this officer did not testify as to his motivation for the search of each occupant as they exited the vehicle. The record indicates that, based on the depth of the search, the officer sought evidence of illicit drugs and was not simply conducting a pat down for officer’s safety. See Flowers, 179 Ill. 2d at 263. As a result, Allspaugh’s search resembled a search incident to arrest and carried strong implications of police custody.
Second, the police presence in the instant case was far greater than that in Havlin. In Havlin only 2 officers were present at the scene. Here, the number of officers at the scene exceeded the number of occupants. The imposing presence of six officers for five occupants created a greater environment of police custody.
Thus, in contrast to Havlin, the facts of the instant case established that defendant was subject to a custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings, and the court did not err in granting defendant’s motion to suppress.