June 23, 2011

Colorado Supreme Court 6-6-11 criminal law decision People v. Hughes

People v. Hughes             Miranda – Definition of Custody
Facts: In Hughes, the Court also decided People v. Reyes (11SA42). The trial courts in both Hughes and Reyes found that the police held both in custody during an interrogation. In Hughes, the police went to Mr. Hughes’ home on a domestic violence call. The Court states that Mr. Hughes ‘voluntarily’ went to the driveway to meet with two officers while others went inside and interviewed the complaining witness. Of course, in the driveway, the police interrogate Mr. Hughes. In Reyes, the cop claimed Ms. Reyes ran a red light, but when he stopped her he also asked her if she was in the country legally. The trial court found the officer had a reasonable suspicion to stop, but impermissibly held Ms. Reyes in custody when he started interrogating her about her status in this country
Issue: Whether the police held Ms. Reyes or Mr. Hughes in custody during an interrogation?
Held: No.
Reasoning: In Hughes, the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Martinez, highlighted that the trial court stated the officer’s subjective intentions – pretty much a death kneel for any chance Mr. Hughes had for winning. Further, the Court highlighted that the police spoke in conversational tones, did not search or pat Mr. Hughes down, and did not physically restrain him. The problem with this logic is that the Court invites people to attempt to flee before finding custody, which most folks will not do with armed cops all around. Further, although subjective intentions of the officer do not amount to custody, the officer making those intentions known to the person, here Mr. Hughes, does make a huge difference. A point the Court ignores.
            In Reyes, the Court simply stated that the trial court assumed Ms. Reyes was in custody due to the traffic stop. The Court ignored the fact that the officer started questioning Ms. Reyes about her status in this country – a subject beyond the scope of the reason to stop her. In the end, the Court may have had a harder time in each case had the trial courts, respectively, justified the reasons for suppressing the statements. However, the Court emphasized that neither trial court’s findings were extensive.

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