Wednesday, June 08, 2011

DUI Appeal - Handcuffing Person Does Not Always Mean Arrest Says Minnesota

In Myhre v. Commissioner of Public Safety, --- N.W.2d ----, 2011 WL 2175838 (Minn.App.) the defendant appealed the revocation of his driving privileges, arguing that he was 'in custody' at the time he was interrogated and therefore his statements were obtained in violation of Miranda. On appeal, the facts revealed that the defendant was found inside the garage of a home by the owner, who did not know him. Apparently, the intoxicate man had stepped out of a neighbor's home to have a smoke and was confused upon re-entry. A small, diminutive female police officer, unsure about the facts upon arrival, handcuffed the individual for officer safety. he was then interrogated, where it was learned that he was a guest next door, had driven to the home after drinking, and had not driven after driving.

The appeals court found that the defendant was not "in custody" when he was handcuffed and interrogated. Rather than focusing on "whether a reasonable person, innocent of a crime, would believe they were no longer free to leave" as required by the SCOTUS decision in Mendenhall, the court focused instead on the officer's reasonableness:

"The district court found that Officer Carlson is “female and of smaller stature.” The district court also found the Officer Carlson was alone at the scene and that when she arrived the “parties were breathing heavily and Officer Carlson could tell that there had been an argument.” Based on these facts, we agree with the district court's determination that, under these circumstances, it was reasonable for Officer Carlson to handcuff appellant and remove him from the garage for officer safety reasons.

We also agree with the district court's determination that Officer Carlson's questions did not go beyond the scope of an initial investigation. After arriving at the scene, the officers quickly determined that appellant did not live at the residence and that he was not supposed to be there. Questions regarding where appellant was coming from and how he arrived at the residence were relevant to the initial investigation."

Once the Minnesota Appeals court wrongfully applied the 4th amendment test of 'reasonableness' to the legal issue, rather than the 6th amendment test of 'custody', the result was inevitable and the refusal to suppress the defendant's non-Mirandized answers was affirmed.

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