CUSTODIAL INTERROGATION: BETHEL V. COM. (COA 4/13/2007)

BETHEL V. COM.
CRIMINAL:  Custodial Interrogation
2005-CA-001932
PUBLISHED: REVERSING; PAISLEY
DATE RENDERED: 4/13/2007

CA reversed and remanded Defendant’s convictions for possession of a controlled substance in the first degree and theft by unlawful taking under $300.00. TC erred by not suppressing Defendant’s statement to police. In this case, the record discloses that Bethel was caught shoplifting. He voluntarily accompanied Ford into the store’s loss prevention office, which was a small room with a door that was always kept shut. After Bethel had been in the office for a short time, the police officers arrived, and Officer Caudell positioned himself between Bethel and the door, the only means for leaving the office. And, most importantly of all, Officer Caudell thoroughly searched Bethel, engaging in "physical touching of the person of the citizen[.]"

Given the totality of these circumstances, a reasonable person in Bethel’s situation would not have believed that he was free to leave. On the contrary, he would expect to be arrested for shoplifting. Thus, the trial court erred when it found that Bethel was not in custody at the time he made his incriminating statement. Because police did not advise Bethel of his Miranda rights, the subsequent questioning of Bethel concerning the metal spoon, a glass vial which contained an unknown liquid, and two syringes was illegal.

Digested by Scott Byrd
www.olginandbyrd.com

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