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Off-hand Comment by Suspect to Trooper did not Violate Defendant's Miranda Rights - Deemed a Spo

Spontaneous Statement did not Violate Miranda

Those accused of a crime (even if entirely innocent - especially if innocent) should keep their mouths shut. As a New York Criminal Defense Attorney, I often tell clients and prospective clients - aside from pedigree information, do not speak to the police. Assert your right to remain silent (you have to speak to the police to assert this right) and demand an attorney (an indelible right in New York). Like any good rule, Miranda has its exceptions.

The Supreme Court case in point was likely discussed in a law school criminal procedure class: Rhode Island v. Innis where "[w]hile escorting Innis to the station in a police car, three officers began discussing the shotgun involved in the robbery. One of the officers commented that there was a school for handicapped children in the area and that if one of the students found the weapon he might injure himself. Innis then interrupted and told the officers to turn the car around so he could show them where the gun was located." Sounds like the police may have impacted the defendant's ability to remain silent (statements sought to elicit an incriminating response) but did they violate his rights, the Supreme Court (6-3) said no. We deal with the progeny of that decision in Ero:

The New York Law Journal reported that "[a]n off-hand comment that a suspect made to a state trooper—and that the trooper later realized reflected the suspect's knowledge of a crime—was a spontaneous utterance that did not require that Miranda rights be given, a court concluded." The Journal further reported that "Authorities said Ero was being booked after his arrest on two bench warrants by Trooper Brian Belson, who told Ero that he also was being booked on a petit larceny charge for stealing heaters from a Price Chopper supermarket in Plattsburgh."

Specifically, the Court found that:

"[S]pontaneous statements made while in custody which are not the product of questioning or its functional equivalent clearly are admissible regardless of whether Miranda warnings were given" (People v Kenyon, 108 AD3d 933, 936 [2013], lv denied 21 NY3d 1075 [2013]; see People v Harris, 57 NY2d 335, 342 [1982], cert denied 460 US 1047 [1983]; People v George, 127 AD3d 1496, 1497 [2015]). Here, the testimony at the Huntley hearing from Brian Belson, a state trooper, established that he arrested defendant on two bench warrants. Belson testified that, because defendant was arrested on the bench warrants, no Miranda warnings were issued because there was no need to interview defendant. While processing defendant, Belson informed defendant that he was also being charged with petit larceny for stealing heaters from Price Chopper in the Town of Plattsburgh – charges that had been prepared by another trooper and who had asked Belson to process defendant on that charge in the event that defendant was arrested. In response, defendant stated that he had taken the heaters "from Price Chopper in Champlain." Belson testified that the comment made no sense to him until subsequently speaking with an investigator following defendant's arraignment on the bench warrants.

The Court concludes that "As nothing in the record indicates that defendant's statement resulted from any inducement, provocation, interrogation or its functional equivalent, defendant's spontaneous statement was clearly admissible." citing (People v Harris, 57 NY2d at 342; People v Rivers, 56 NY2d 476, 480 [1982]; People v George, 127 AD3d at 1497; People v Rabideau, 82 AD3d 1283, 1284 [2011], lv denied 17 NY3d 799 [2011]; People v Roberts, 12 AD3d 835, 836 [2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 802 [2005]).

This should serve as a constant reminder: keep your mouth shut. If you are arrested or speaking to police anything you say can be used against you. Whether in Clinton County, Nassau County, Suffolk County, the Five Boroughs of New York City or Florida, should you or someone you know need an attorney, cal the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris at any time during the day. Demand an attorney and call 631-450-2515.

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