Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York child abuse case requiring the court to determine if an interview conducted by a child protective services caseworker was in violation of the defendant’s right to counsel. Ultimately, the court determined that the interview was indeed a violation of the defendant’s right to counsel and ordered the suppression of all statements obtained from the interview.
Generally, when someone is under investigation for a crime, they have the right to have an attorney present when they are questioned. However, the law surrounding this area is quite nuanced, and there is much litigation over exactly when someone is under investigation and what constitutes “questioning.”
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, a Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworker interviewed the defendant while he was in custody for criminal charges. At the time, the caseworker had been working on a task force with law enforcement agencies where she received training on how to interview individuals who are accused of committing sexual offenses. The caseworker was aware that the defendant was being represented by counsel for his criminal matter, but no counsel was present during this interview. During the interview, the defendant admitted to having sexual contact with the victim. The prosecution intended to use this statement at the defendant’s trial.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements from the interview, arguing that the caseworker was acting as an agent of the police when she interviewed him. The trial court denied this motion, and the defendant was convicted. The defendant appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, thus granting the defendant’s motion to suppress the statements. The court explained that a social worker may be considered an agent of the police depending on the degree of cooperation between the social worker and police agency during an investigation. Here, although the police were not present during the interview and did not direct the CPS caseworker to conduct the interview on a specific date, the caseworker and the police had a cooperative working arrangement. Thus, the defendant’s right to counsel was violated, and the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the statements.
While questions posed by those who are not police officers will not always implicate someone’s constitutional protections, this case shows that, sometimes, they will.
Were You Arrested for a New York Crime?
If you are involved in a criminal investigation or were recently arrested for a crime, the dedicated New York sex crimes lawyers at Tilem & Associates are ready to help you fight for your rights. Our team of passionate trial lawyers has extensive experience dealing with all types of cases involving child abuse and sexual assault allegations, as well as many other criminal matters. We understand that facing this type of crime can be an overwhelmingly stressful experience, and we do everything we can to put your mind at ease. To set up a free consultation with one of our New York criminal defense attorneys, call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online.