The issue of whether a statement taken by New York CPS workers after a defendant had been arrested in a related criminal case and the defendant’s right to counsel had attached, was recently discussed by a New York Appellate Court. After police make an arrest, they will often bring the arrestee in for questioning. What is said during this questioning can be crucial. Therefore, before questioning someone about their involvement in a crime, police must read the arrestee specific warnings. These warnings – often called the Miranda warnings – explain the rights of the arrestee. Notably, these include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
If a statement is taken by a law enforcement official in the absence of these warnings, the statement may be inadmissible in court because it was taken in violation of the defendant’s rights. However, only statements made during “custodial interrogation” by a law enforcement official require miranda warnings. A recent New York assault case illustrates the limits of a defendant’s rights to be free from questioning by a government employee who is not a non-law enforcement official.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with several assault charges stemming from a December 2014 incident in which he was alleged to have struck the mother of his child with a crowbar. At the time of the alleged offense, the defendant’s six-year-old child was present.
Apparently, after the defendant’s arrest, a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker visited the defendant in custody to interview him about the allegations of assault. The CPS worker was not working with police or the prosecutor, and was there strictly in her capacity as a CPS worker. The defendant made several statements to the CPS worker, which he sought to suppress at trial.
The court concluded that the statements were admissible and should not be suppressed. The court acknowledged that the defendant did have the right to an attorney at the time of the interview, but that the right only required an attorney while he was being interviewed by law enforcement. The court explained that here, the CPS worker did not question the defendant in a “law enforcement capacity.” The court relied on the CPS worker’s testimony indicating she was not working with or for law enforcement, as well as the fact that there were no law enforcement officials present during the interview. Thus, because the CPS worker was not working at the behest of law enforcement, the defendant’s statements to the CPS worker should not be suppressed.
Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?
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