June 21, 2010

Colorado Supreme Court decisions 6-21-10

People v. Holt            Miranda and the Definition of Custody
Synopsis: During the execution of a warrant on Mr. Holt’s apartment, the police knocked and announced their presence, and when Mr. Holt’s fiancĂ© answered, “entered [the apartment] quickly.” The lead detective went directly to Mr. Holt, put is hand on Mr. Holt’s shoulder, told him not to move, and handcuffed him. About five minutes later, the lead detective asked Mr. Holt to answer some questions, and Mr. Holt agreed. Thereupon, the detective un-handcuffed Mr. Holt, led him to an unmarked police van, and interrogated him for 25 minutes.  After interrogating him, the detective ‘arrested’ Mr. Holt and advised him pursuant to Miranda.
Issue: Whether the police held Mr. Holt in custody?
Held: Yes. 
Reasoning: The Court stated, "First, the officers used a degree of force typically associated with arrest when they entered Holt’s apartment with their weapons drawn and handcuffed him. Second, Holt was handcuffed and subject to significant physical restraint when he consented to answering the detective’s questions. Third, during the encounter no officer told Holt that he was free to leave. Fourth, Holt appeared to be the prime suspect in the investigation, which would have affected his perceived freedom to leave. Fifth, Holt had every reason to believe he would be arrested following interrogation, and his words and actions during interrogation indicate that he knew he was likely to be arrested. Finally, Holt was isolated and interrogated inside a police van -- a non-neutral setting -- for twenty-five minutes. A reasonable person in these circumstances would have felt deprived of his freedom of action in a manner similar to a formal arrest. Therefore, we conclude that Holt was in custody during interrogation."

People v. Null            Miranda, Custody and Traffic Stops / Violation of Express Consent Law and Remedy
Issue: Whether a routine traffic stop transformed into custody?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: The police held Mr. Null for “a lengthy period of time,” and Mr. Null was not free to leave. After claiming he failed roadsides, the police interrogated him on the side of the road. During the interrogation, Mr. Null stood with his back to a patrol car while one officer stood to his left and another officer stood to his right. The Court held such detention constituted custody for the purposes of Miranda, and affirmed the trial court’s suppression order.
Issue: Whether ‘extraordinary circumstances’ prevented the police from conducting a test of Mr. Null’s blood?
Held: No. 
Reasoning: Pursuant to statute, the police offered Mr. Null the choice of either a blood test or a breath test. Mr. Null chose blood. The police told him that medical staff could not make it to the station to take his blood. The police then ordered him to take a breath test, and Mr. Null refused. At a hearing, the prosecution offered no evidence to justify the ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which prevented medical staff from taking Mr. Null’s blood. ‘Extraordinary circumstances’ encompasses, not just police, but medical staff. Thus, inconvenience is not a justification.
Issue: Did the trial court abuse its discretion by both suppressing the refusal of the breath test and dismissing the DUI charges?
Held: No. 
Reasoning: The Court stated, “[L]aw enforcement may not violate a defendant’s statutory rights with impunity. Therefore, we hold that the trial court acted within its discretion when it suppressed the evidence of Null’s refusal to take a breath test and dismissed the DUI charge against him.”

In re: People v. Spykstra            Subpoena Duces Tecum  / DA Standing to Object To Subpoenas / Unreasonable and Oppressive Subpoenas
Issue: Whether the subpoena to produce emails from the family computer was unreasonable and oppressive?
Holding: Yes.
The Court reasoned that the subpoena was unreasonable and oppressive because Counsel for Ms. Spykstra could not point to anything in particular that led her to believe the emails offered any material evidence. Moreover, the Court stated flatly, “Rule 17(c) subpoena is not an investigatory tool.” The Court came up with a 5-part test for subpoenas:           
(1) A reasonable likelihood that the subpoenaed materials exist, by setting forth a specific factual basis;
(2) That the materials are evidentiary and relevant;
(3) That the materials are not otherwise procurable reasonably in advance of trial by the exercise of due diligence;
(4) That the party cannot properly prepare for trial without such production and inspection in advance of trial and that the failure to obtain such inspection may tend unreasonably to delay the trial; and
(5) That the application is made in good faith and is not intended as a general fishing expedition.
The Court based much of this decision on U.S. v. Nixon and Commonwealth v. Lam.
Issue: Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered the parents of the complaining witness to allow a defense expert into their home to search their computer?
Holding: Yes.
Reasoning: The Court reasoned that Rule 17(c) does not give the defense the authority conducts searches.
Issue: Whether the prosecution has standing to object to a subpoena duces tecum served on the parents to produce emails?
Holding: Yes
Reasoning: The Court reasoned that the district attorney has broad authority as a party in any criminal case to ensure witnesses do not get harassed.

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