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In the matter of C.M., 2015 N.C. App. Lexis 249 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): absent formal arrest, the fact that police have identified a person interviewed as a suspect and the fact that an interview is designed to produce incriminating responses from the person are not relevant in assessing whether that person is in custody for Miranda purposes.

Petitions were filed against juvenile alleging that he committed felony breaking and entering, felony larceny pursuant to felonious breaking and entering, conspiracy to commit felony breaking and entering, and violated local curfew ordinances. The juvenile filed a motion to suppress the statements made to the police, asserting that he was not advised of his rights under Miranda and N.C.G.S. § 7B-2101 prior to the interrogation. At the adjudication hearing, the trial court denied the juvenile’s motion to suppress, finding that given the totality of the circumstances, no custodial interrogation had occurred. The juvenile admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit felony breaking and entering and the trial court adjudicated the juvenile delinquent and placed him on supervised probation for nine months.

The juvenile appealed arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress, asserting that his statements resulted from a custodial interrogation. The juvenile contended that the circumstances found in In re D.A.C., which the trial court used as guidance in determining if the juvenile was subject to a custodial interrogation, were distinguishable from the present case.

The Court disagreed finding that similar to In re D.A.C., the juvenile’s mother had scheduled the meeting with the police and invited the officers inside her home for the meeting. The juvenile was fifteen years old on the date of the interrogation and the detective was aware of this fact. The detective testified that when he asked juvenile a question, his answers were given “freely.” The conversation took place in juvenile’s home at 4:00 p.m. so it was still light outside. The detective wore civilian clothes while the other officer was in uniform. The juvenile was questioned in the presence of his mother. Although both officers were armed, neither reached for their weapons at any point in the conversation. The juvenile was not handcuffed or physically restrained in any way. At no point throughout the conversation did juvenile or his mother ask the officers to leave or request to end the conversation.

Further, in In re D.A.C. the Court found that:

[a]lthough any interview of a suspect will necessarily possess coercive aspects, Miranda warnings are not required                         simply because the questioned person is suspected by the police of wrongdoing. In fact, [a]sent indicia of formal arrest,             [the facts] that police have identified the person interviewed as a suspect and that the interview was designed to                               produce incriminating responses from the person are not relevant in assessing whether that person was in custody for               Miranda purposes.

Therefore in the present case, the Court concluded that that the trial court did not err by finding that juvenile’s statements to officers resulted from an impermissible custodial interrogation conducted without the warnings required pursuant to Miranda and N.C.G.S. § 7B-2101. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of juvenile’s motion to suppress was affirmed.

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