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Related Circuit Court Cases

Note to Teachers: The following four cases*, decided by different Courts of Appeals between 2001 and 2010, are presented for homework reading and classroom analysis.  Use the accompanying charts and answer key to identify the factors that determine whether someone is in custody and, therefore, should receive a Miranda warning.

*click each case to expand and view the case contents.
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  • United States v. Kim - 292 F.3d 969 (9th Cir. 2002)

Case #1
U.S. Court of Appeals
United States v. Kim
292 F.3d 969 (9th Cir. 2002)

Facts

Investigators obtained evidence that Insook Kim's ("Kim") store, the "Lil' Brick Deli," was selling large quantities of pseudoephedrine, the main precursor chemical in the production of methamphetamine.  An undercover officer purchased a case of pseudoephedrine at Kim's store from her employee Sang Kyun Kim.  Soon thereafter, on August 3, 2000, police officers executed a search warrant at the Lil' Brick Deli, where they found Kim's 18-year-old son, Kevin, running the store.  They read Kevin the search warrant, handcuffed him, and began to question him.  Kevin's handcuffs were removed at some point during the search—before Kim entered the store—but the police continued to question him.  Kim and her husband, the store's co-owner, were at home the morning of the search.  An officer came to their home looking for Sang Kyun Kim, who had previously been staying at their home.  After the officer's visit, Kim tried to reach her son Kevin at the store.  When no one answered the phone, Kim and her husband became alarmed and drove to the store to see if anything was wrong.

When Kim and her husband arrived, they noticed many police cars in the parking lot and found the door locked.  Kim knocked and shook the locked door.  When an officer opened the door halfway, she explained that she and her husband were the owners of the store.  The officer allowed Kim inside the store.  When her husband tried to enter immediately behind her, the officer quickly shut the door in front of him and locked it from the inside.  Kim's husband knocked on the door again, but no one answered, so he waited—for about three hours—in the parking lot outside the store.

Once inside, Kim called out in Korean for her son, asking if he was okay.  The police, however, had told Kevin before his mother entered the store that he was not to communicate with her.  One officer ordered Kim to speak English, not Korean, and another officer told her to "shut up."  Kevin testified that while his mother was not crying or screaming when she entered the store, her face did look "really white."  The officers directed her to an adjoining seating area, where she sat while the officers searched the store.  Some time later, they sat her at another table, and Detective James G.W. Lilley began to question her.  Kim told the detective that she did not speak English well but was taking lessons.  Kevin too informed the officers that his mother did not speak English very well.  The officers did not handcuff Kim at any point, but at least two officers sat and stood around her in such a way that, as she testified, she felt surrounded by them.  No one told Kim that she was free to leave.  Detective Lilley questioned Kim for 30 minutes before a Korean interpreter arrived, and that the interpreter questioned her for another 15 to 20 minutes.  At no time did Kim receive Miranda warnings.

During the course of the interview, Kim identified the sources of her pseudoephedrine supply.  She explained how she sold the cases of pseudoephedrine and the markup she used for cases from the various suppliers.  She also told police that the money stored in the store's safe came exclusively from sales of pseudoephedrine.  When the officers completed their search and interrogation, they left the store without arresting either Kim or her son.

Procedural History

Kim filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the incriminating statements she made while being questioned during the search, arguing that they were taken in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.  The district court granted the motion, concluding that she was in custody at the time of the interrogation and so should have been advised of her Miranda rights.

Issue

Whether Kim was in custody at the time she made incriminating statements such that those statements should be suppressed if not preceded by advisement of her Miranda rights.

Rule

The Ninth Circuit noted that "[t]o determine whether an individual was in custody, a court must, after examining all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation, decide whether there was a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.  The inquiry focuses on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not the subjective views of the officers or the individual being questioned.  

The Ninth Circuit also set out factors likely to be relevant to deciding that question: 1) the language used to summon the individual; 2) the extent to which the defendant is confronted with evidence of guilt; 3) the physical surroundings of the interrogation; 4) the duration of the detention; and 5) the degree of pressure applied to detain the individual.  The court noted that "[o]ther factors may also be pertinent to, and even dispositive of, the ultimate determination whether a reasonable person would have believed he could freely walk away from the interrogators"; these factors are simply ones that recur frequently.

Ninth Circuit Holding

Yes.  "Kim's voluntary entrance into the store and the fact that she was familiar with the location of the interview, considered in isolation, might weigh in favor of concluding that she was not 'in custody' during the questioning. Nevertheless, under all the circumstances here, we conclude that a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave and therefore that Kim was sufficiently restrained so as to be considered 'in custody.'  Whether or not they intended to surround Kim to make her feel that she could not leave the store, the position of the officers, the fact that they locked Kim's husband out of their store, their restriction of her communication with her son, and their orders as to what language she should speak and when and where she could sit, combined with the length and nature of the questioning, would have made a reasonable person believe that she could not have just walked away.  Under these circumstances, Kim would have reasonably felt compelled to stay in the store and answer the officers' inquiries for as long as they continued to question her—which is precisely what she did."  

Therefore, the court held that Kim was "in custody" when the police interrogated her without providing her Miranda warnings, and thus, Kim's statements to the police were correctly suppressed by the district court.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Decided: June 6, 2002

Majority opinion written by Judge Berson and joined by Judge B. Fletcher

Dissenting opinion written by Judge O'Scannlain


  • United States v. Luna-Encinas - 603 F.3d 876 (11th Cir. 2010)

Case #2
U.S. Court of Appeals
United States v. Luna-Encinas
603 F.3d 876 (11th Cir. 2010)

Facts

At the time of his arrest on September 20, 2007, twenty-eight-year-old Cesar Osvaldo Luna-Encinas lived in Pensacola, Florida, with his girlfriend in a second-floor room of Wanda Caceres' townhouse at 3407A Hernandez Street ("Townhouse A").  In that room, Luna-Encinas stored a Sig Sauer .357 caliber pistol under the mattress.  He kept an empty pistol box, also bearing the Sig Sauer label, in the bedroom closet.

Earlier that day, at a local Federal Express office, City of Pensacola police officers had intercepted a package addressed to 3407B Hernandez Street ("Townhouse B") containing thirty pounds of marijuana.  They obtained a warrant to search Townhouse B from a state-court judge and planned to make a controlled delivery there.  Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Chris Webster, posing as a Federal Express employee, arrived at Townhouse B to deliver the package, while the other officers remained nearby to monitor the operation.  As agent Webster neared the front of Townhouse B, several men were standing in the yard in front of Townhouse A.  One of them, later identified as Alejandro Pulido-Govea, left the group and approached Webster.  Pulido signed for and accepted the package, and then entered Townhouse B.  Webster left the immediate vicinity, at which point officers entered Townhouse B pursuant to the search warrant. They located the unopened package in a closet but, unable to find Pulido, left the building to ask the neighbors about his whereabouts.  A neighbor told the officers that she had seen someone leave the adjacent Townhouse B and enter Townhouse A.

Entering the backyard of Townhouse A with their service weapons drawn but pointed downward, two officers, one in uniform and one in plain clothes wearing a vest with police insignia, found Luna-Encinas and another man, Jose, doing yard work.  The only Spanish-speaking officer on the scene, Drug Enforcement agent Keith Humphreys, explained to the two men in Spanish and in a "serious" tone that the officers were looking for a specific person.  Humphreys inquired if there were any other males in Townhouse A and if anyone had run through the yard or into the residence.  Both men answered "no" to the questions.  To make sure they were not armed, Humphreys then asked them to raise their shirts to reveal their waistbands, and they complied.  Neither had a weapon.  Humphreys directed Luna-Encinas and Jose to sit down until the residence had been secured, telling them that the investigation would not take long.  Again, they complied, and for ten minutes, the two officers, Luna-Encinas, and Jose remained in the backyard making small talk as the investigation proceeded.

In the meantime, officers had approached the front of Townhouse A.  Caceres answered the door.  An officer explained that a narcotics investigation was under way.  Caceres permitted officers to enter the dwelling.  Caceres told the officers that several people were upstairs and upon request, asked them to come down.  One of the men descending the stairs was identified as Pulido; he was arrested and placed in a squad car.  Caceres consented to a search of her home, where officers found the handgun box in the bedroom closet.

Several minutes later, while Caceras was signing a consent form, Humphreys and the other officer brought Luna-Encinas and Jose to the front yard of Townhouse A.  At no point had the two men been handcuffed, and the officers, with their weapons holstered, walked behind them as they all traveled the thirty feet separating the backyard from the front of the house.  The officers did not physically touch or otherwise restrain the defendant Luna-Encinas or Jose.  When the four men arrived in the front yard, one of the officers told Luna-Encinas and Jose to sit on the ground.  Luna-Encinas attempted to speak to Jose, but was told not to.  An officer asked Luna-Encinas where the handgun was located, and via Caceras' translation, Luna-Encinas informed the officer the gun was under the mattress.  Officers retrieved the gun and then advised Luna-Encinas of his Miranda rights in Spanish. Procedural History

Luna-Encinas filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the statements he made regarding the location of the gun, arguing that they were taken in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.  The district court denied the motion, concluding that he was seized, but not in custody at the time of the interrogation and so did not need to be advised of his Miranda rights.

Issue

Whether Luna-Encinas  was in custody at the time he made incriminating statements such that those statements should be suppressed if not preceded by advisement of his Miranda rights.

Rule

In assessing whether a reasonable innocent person in Luna-Encinas' position "would have understood his freedom of action to have been curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest," the Eleventh Circuit considered the totality of the circumstances, "including whether the officers brandished weapons, touched the suspect, or used language or a tone that indicated that compliance with the officers could be compelled, as well as the location and length of the detention."

Eleventh Circuit Holding

No.  The Eleventh Circuit concluded that "Luna-Encinas was detained for a relatively brief period in a neutral, outdoor location, while other officers searched for a drug suspect who, as they had told Luna-Encinas, was not him.  Even accepting that Luna-Encinas had been "seized" as he sat on the ground in the front yard of his home," the Eleventh Circuit was "convinced that a reasonable person in his position would not have understood his freedom of action to have been curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest.  Luna-Encinas' very brief detention did not involve the type of 'highly intrusive' coercive atmosphere that may require Miranda warnings even before a formal arrest is made.  The totality of the circumstances were such that a reasonable person in Luna–Encinas' position would not have believed that he was utterly at the mercy of the police, away from the protection of any public scrutiny, and had better confess or else."

Therefore, because Luna-Encinas was not in "custody" when he made the statements leading to the discovery of the firearm, the officers were under no obligation to advise him of his Miranda rights, and no Fifth Amendment violation occurred.  Thus, the district court properly denied Luna-Encinas' motion to suppress his pre-arrest statements

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Decided: April 13, 2010

Majority opinion written by Judge Marcus and joined by Judges Black and Higginbotham


  • United States v. Romaszko - 253 F.3d 757 (2d Cir. 2001)

Case #3
U.S. Court of Appeals
United States v. Romaszko
253 F.3d 757 (2d Cir. 2001)

Facts

Maryann Romaszko was employed as a window clerk at the Niagara Square Post Office. After a loss was discovered at the post office Romaszko became a target of the investigation. On June 16, 1999, Postal Inspectors Kurt Hammer and Molly Hackimer interviewed Romaszko in the office of the station manager.

The meeting was planned for a time when Romaszko was at work and she was directed by her boss to attend the interview.  Romaszko was confronted by two Postal Inspectors with badges, handcuffs and weapons, who immediately accused her of stealing money.  Romaszko was never told that she was free to leave this meeting.  Indeed, on at least five occasions, Romaszko asked to leave or attempted to stand up and was told that she could not.  At one point during the meeting, the lead investigator told Romaszko, "No, you're not going anywhere."  Romaszko was not advised of her Miranda rights.  During the course of the interview, Romaszko was asked if she had taken money from the Post Office, and she stated that she had not.  On the basis of this statement, Romaszko was charged with a felony for making a false statement to Postal Inspectors during the course of their investigation.

Procedural History

Romaszko moved to suppress the statements obtained in the June 16, 1999 interview with the United States Postal Inspectors.  The district court granted the motion, concluding that Romaszko was in custody at the time she made the statements.

Issue

Whether Romaszko was in custody at the time she made incriminating statements such that those statements should be suppressed if not preceded by advisement of her Miranda rights.

Rule

The Second Circuit stated that "[a] court evaluating whether a person is in custody for Miranda purposes must consider the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and ... given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave."

Second Circuit Holding

Yes.  The Second Circuit concluded that a reasonable person in Romaszko's circumstances would not have felt at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave without suffering the economic sanction of losing their job.  Further, the Postal Inspectors "acted in a manner which conveyed the message that they would not have permitted defendant to leave at any time during the interview," specifically because Romaszko was ordered into a room and told on at least five occasions that she could not leave.  

Therefore, because Romaszko  was not in "custody" when she made the statements, the district court properly suppressed the statements because they were not preceding by an advisement of Miranda rights.

The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Decided: June 19, 2001

Per Curiam opinion


  • United States v. Thompson - 496 F.3d 807 (7th Cir. 2007)

Case #4
U.S. Court of Appeals
United States v. Thompson
496 F.3d 807 (7th Cir. 2007)

Facts

On October 20, 1999, Dennis Thompson robbed a branch of the LaSalle National Bank in Peru, Illinois, taking $64,761 in cash.  Nearly five years later, on September 22, 2004, FBI Special Agents Timothy Eley and Dan Lee arrived at Thompson's home to interview him about the robbery.  The agents identified themselves to Thompson, showed their photo identification to him, and asked him if he was willing to speak with them.  Thompson agreed, inviting the agents into his living room.  Once inside and while everyone remained standing, the agents questioned Thompson about his background.  Thompson answered the agents' questions but gave the agents his alias, David James Fowler, and an alias birth date.  He denied that he was involved in the bank robbery until the agents showed him a sketch of the robbery suspect and called him by his given name, Dennis.  At that point, he realized that the agents knew his identity.

The agents questioned Thompson from that point forward while sitting in the living room.  Thompson sat on the couch while the agents sat in chairs to the left and right of him, approximately four or five feet away.  Neither agent physically touched Thompson in a threatening or intimidating manner.  During the interview, Thompson asked to get a glass of water from the kitchen and, later, his Bible from a walk-in closet in the living room.  Eley agreed to Thompson's requests but followed him on both occasions at a distance of about five to six feet, keeping Thompson in view at all times.  Over the next few hours, the agents told Thompson that criminal defendants who cooperate with the authorities receive lighter punishments and mentioned the possibility that Thompson might be released from jail on bond in order to dispose of his personal possessions.  Eventually, Thompson confessed to the robbery in detail. Agent Eley prepared a written confession that Thompson reviewed and signed.  The agents then left Thompson's home without arresting him.

Two other agents stood watch over Thompson's home approximately 100 yards away.  Early the next morning, Thompson left his home dressed in athletic clothing to go for a jog.  When Thompson attempted to leave, the agents arrested him, eventually bringing him to the FBI's Rockford, Illinois office.  They placed Thompson in an interview room and advised him of his Miranda rights, which Thompson waived.  Thompson then gave a second confession to the October 20, 1999 robbery of the LaSalle National Bank.

Procedural History

Thompson filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the confessions, arguing that he was in custody when he gave the first confession at his home, and thus, was taken in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.  The district court denied the motion.

Issue

Whether Thompson  was in custody at the time he made the first confession, such that those statements as well as those that followed, should be suppressed if not preceded by advisement of his Miranda rights.

Rule

The Seventh Circuit noted that "[a] suspect is 'in custody' for Miranda purposes when there is 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.  Custody 'implies a situation in which the suspect knows he is speaking with a government agent and does not feel free to end the conversation; the essential element of a custodial interrogation is coercion.'" The Seventh Circuit looks to the totality of the circumstances and considers whether a reasonable person would have believed that he or she was free to leave.  The Seventh Circuit considers "such factors as whether the encounter occurred in a public place; whether the suspect consented to speak with the officers; whether the officers informed the individual that he was not under arrest and was free to leave; whether the individual was moved to another area; whether there was a threatening presence of several officers and a display of weapons or physical force; and whether the officers' tone of voice was such that their requests were likely to be obeyed."

Seventh Circuit Holding

No.  The Seventh Circuit concluded that under "the totality of the circumstances present here, a reasonable person would not have believed that he was in custody.  Thompson invited the agents into his home and agreed to be questioned.  While Thompson's living room is small, requiring Thompson and the agents to sit within a few feet of one another, the close proximity of the agents alone, in these circumstances, [was] insufficient to render a suspect 'in custody.'  Additionally, the agents did not raise their voices or display their weapons in an intimidating manner, nor did they physically restrain Thompson in any way.  Agent Eley followed Thompson when Thompson went to get a glass of water and his Bible, activities that are not inherently private and that do not establish a custodial situation by the mere presence of a law enforcement officer.  There [was] also no evidence of coercion or subterfuge. . . .  Thompson was not arrested at the conclusion of the interview, and his own actions the following morning of leaving his home dressed in athletic apparel to go jogging suggest that Thompson himself did not believe that he was in custody."

Thus, the Seventh Circuit was "in agreement with the district court's finding that Thompson was not 'in custody' during the September 22 interview and denial of Thompson's motion to suppress the September 22 confession.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Decided: August 7, 2007

Majority opinion written by Judge Bauer and joined by Judges Cudahy and Flaum


  • Critical Analysis of the Circuit Courts' Decisions

Critical Analysis of the Circuit Courts' Decisions

Discussion Questions

1.    What factors have many of the courts looked at in determining whether a person is "in custody" for purposes of giving a  Miranda warning?

2.    Are these factors the only ones?  What other factors should a court consider?

3.    What should be a court's ultimate consideration?

4.    Is there consistency in the court's determinations regarding when a person is in custody and when he is not?

5.    Should a court take into account factors specific to a particular suspect?  Why or why not?