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New York Court Allows Admission of Defendant’s “Blurt Out” Statement

Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens have a right to be free from self-incrimination. The extent of this right, including in what situations it applies, has long been disputed. Currently, courts consider the Fifth Amendment to attach when police engage in the custodial interrogation of a suspect.

Determining when police conduct amounts to custodial interrogation involves a two-prong inquiry. First, courts consider whether the suspect is in custody, or its functional equivalent. Proving a suspect is in custody requires courts use an objective approach, asking whether a suspect reasonably believed they were free to leave. If so, the suspect was not in custody.

A suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights will not attach merely because they are in custody; police must also question or interrogate the suspect. For example, the police may question a suspect about their involvement in a crime. Courts have held that an officer’s conduct that falls short of direct questioning may still trigger interrogation. Thus, any actions taken by an officer reasonably expected to elicit a response from the suspect may count as an interrogation. However, when a statement is spontaneously made, it will not likely be suppressed. A recent case illustrates this concept as it pertained to a “blurted out” confession after a traffic stop. While the suspect was unquestionably in custody at the time she made her statement, it was made with no prodding, encouragement, or questioning from the police.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over by police for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The officers determined that there was probable cause to arrest the defendant for DWAI and DWI. The defendant made an inculpatory statement, acknowledging her intoxication, immediately after the officers placed her under arrest.

The prosecution attempted to use the defendant’s inculpatory statement to establish that she was guilty of the crimes charged. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the statement was inadmissible because it was made as a result of her custodial interrogation without the proper Miranda warnings.

The court denied the defendant’s motion, holding that while she was in custody, her statement was not in response to any form of interrogation. The court explained that “merely informing a defendant that he or she is under arrest does not undermine the spontaneity of a statement.” The court also noted police did nothing to elicit the statement and that it was effectively “forced upon” them.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York DWI or DWAI Offense?

If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and charged with a New York DWI offense, the experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates can help. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients who face a variety of serious charges, including New York drug offenses, gun crimes, and violent crimes. We defend the rights of our clients at every stage of the proceeding, from arrest to appeal. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the crimes you are accused of, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.