Criminal (Custodial Interrogation): COMMONWEALTH V. LUCAS (SC; 6/15/2006)

CRIMINAL:  Custodial interrogation
DATE:  6/15/2006

Lucas was convicted of sexual abuse.  SC held the interrogation during which Lucas confessed was noncustodial-and therefore did not require a Miranda warning and thus agreed with the trial court in denying the suppression motion and reversing the Court of Appeals. 

The police first interviewed Lucas on February 26, 2002, regarding a report of inappropriate touching of his stepdaughter. Lucas came to the police station voluntarily, was given Miranda warnings and was told that he was free to leave at any time, which he did after the questioning . The next day the police filed a criminal complaint for misdemeanor sexual abuse with regard to the stepdaughter and obtained an arrest warrant. The police detective also received an additional report from a nephew of Lucas who alleged that the defendant had abused him 20 years before when the nephew was about five years old .

The police again asked Lucas to come in for questioning on March 1, 2002, which he did voluntarily. On this occasion, he was not given Miranda warnings and was not told that he was free to leave at any time . The police detective informed him that she had filed a misdemeanor complaint for the incident with the stepdaughter, but did not tell him that she had obtained a warrant and intended to arrest him on that charge. The detective questioned Lucas further regarding the allegations of the stepdaughter and then inquired about the report from the nephew. Ultimately, he confessed to the abuse of the nephew during that period of questioning which lasted a little over one hour. He was then arrested .

Lucas sought to suppress his confession claiming that he did not make a knowing and voluntary waiver of his rights. After a suppression hearing at which the police detective was the only witness, the trial judge denied the motion to suppress finding that Lucas was not in custody when he made the confession. Lucas entered a conditional guilty plea to first degree sexual abuse, a felony, and second-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor. He reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial judge in a split opinion. One judge concurred in the result in the lead opinion and another dissented without opinion . The Court of Appeals decision was not published.

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