In a recent opinion from a New York court involving a leaving the scene of an accident, the defendant’s motion to suppress was denied. The defendant was convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree and filed a motion to suppress several statements he made to a sergeant who came to question him after the incident. The appellate court denied the motion because it found the defendant’s freedom was not significantly restricted when he made statements to the sergeant.
The Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the driver of a van struck another vehicle then drove away from the scene. Because the van’s license plate fell off while the van was driving away, the county sheriff’s office was able to identify the van’s registered owner. When a sergeant from the sheriff’s office went to question the van’s owner at his farm. The owner made statements that ended up being used against him in court.
After a jury found the defendant guilty of unlicensed operation of the motor vehicle, the defendant appealed, insisting that his statements to the sergeant should have been suppressed. On appeal, the defendant argued that he was both “in custody” and actively “interrogated” by the sergeant, meaning his freedom was significantly restricted while he was being questioned.
The appellate court decided the defendant’s statements should not be suppressed, and that it was acceptable for the statements to be used against him. The court explained that even though the defendant felt as though the sergeant was forcing him to answer questions, the questions were more “investigatory” than “accusatory.” The defendant argued that because the sergeant put handcuffs on him, he did not have the option to leave the conversation – therefore, the statements should not be used against him. The court found, however, that the use of handcuffs was acceptable for safety purposes, given that the defendant was standing close to several sharp farm objects when the two men were speaking.
The defendant also argued that his statements were not made voluntarily and that he should have been given Miranda warnings before the sergeant questioned him. The court disagreed, crediting the sergeant’s testimony during trial, which disputed the defendant’s description of events. During trial, the sergeant maintained that the defendant was not in a situation comparable to custody or interrogation and that his freedom was not constrained. The court held that because the conditions of the questioning were not restrictive, Miranda warnings were not required. As a result of the court’s opinion, the conviction against the defendant in this case will stand.
Were You Arrested Based on Statements You Made to a Police Officer in New York?
If you have been arrested after speaking with a police officer, consult with a criminal defense attorney who is committed to supporting you and fighting for your rights. There may be defenses you can raise to get your statements suppressed, and it is of the utmost importance that you raise these defenses as soon as possible. At Tilem & Associates, we are a dedicated and skilled legal team ready to advocate on your behalf. We are zealous, experienced attorneys with in-depth knowledge of New York search and seizure laws. To protect yourself and make sure your voice is heard, schedule a free consultation by calling Tilem & associates at 877-377-8666.