E-Newsletter Edition: June 21, 2007

Always note that state law may be more restrictive on police power than the U.S. Constitution.

When a resident at the scene of a search warrant execution is detained and handcuffed, are they in custody for purposes of Miranda or can responses to questions as to the location of evidence being sought be used against them at trial?


Short answer: A person who is handcuffed at the scene of a search warrant execution will likely be “in-custody” for Miranda purposes and thus should be Mirandized prior to questioning about the whereabouts of evidence.

Two recent cases are illustrative of the trend in courts regarding questioning of subjects detained at the scene of a search warrant execution.

In U.S. v. Daubmann i the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether statements made to IRS agents during the execution of a search warrant at the home of Donna and William Daubmann were admissible at their trial for tax evasion.

The court began its analysis by outlining when Miranda is required. The outline asserted: “Miranda defined custodial interrogation as questioning “initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom in any significant way.” In refining the Miranda test, the Supreme Court defined custody largely in Fourth Amendment terms, identifying the “ultimate inquiry” as whether the person interrogated was subjected to a “formal arrest or [a] restraint on [his or her] freedom of movement to the degree associated with a formal arrest.” As within the Fourth Amendment context, the test is objective. “[T]he initial determination of custody depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned.” In short, if a “reasonable person in [the Daubmanns’] position would have believed that he [or she] was actually in police custody and [was] being constrained to a degree associated with formal arrest,” then custody has been established for Miranda purposes.” (cites omitted)

The court then analyzed detention as it relates to the execution of a warrant and summarized the law as follows: In Michigan v. Summers, decided fifteen years after Miranda, the Supreme Court held that a search warrant implicitly carries with it the limited authority to detain the occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted. The Court held that the detention is justified by the substantial law enforcement interests in preventing flight, minimizing the risk of harm to the officers executing the warrant, and facilitating the orderly completion of the search. The Court also opined that under normal circumstances, most occupants would want to be present during the execution of a search warrant and that self-interest may induce them to open locked doors or locked containers to avoid the use of force that is not only damaging to property but may also delay the completion of the task at hand.

The Court, however, cautioned that the detention authorized during the execution of a search warrant should not be exploited by the officers or unduly prolonged in order to gain more information, because the information the officers seek will normally be obtained through the search and not through the detention. In other words,officers conducting a lawful search of a person’s home are not permitted to use the suspect’s detention to their official advantage by attempting to extract self-incriminating statements from the suspect.”

In applying the law to the facts in this case, the court noted that the Daubmanns were separated and under constant guard and continually questioned while remaining in a state of undress. The court concluded that any reasonable person would believe they were in custody under these circumstances and thus they should have been given Mirandawarnings prior to questioning.

A second case is almost squarely on point with the question presented. In Shopshire v. Stateii an appellate court from Arkansas analyzed the Miranda issue during the execution of a search warrant seeking evidence related to methamphetamine manufacture and use.

Shopshire arrived at his home shortly after law enforcement officers had used a battering ram to gain entry during the execution of a search warrant. “When Detective Paul Smith advised Shropshire that officers were in the process of executing the search warrant, Shropshire ‘dropped his head. . . in a solemn manner.’ Smith asked if officers ‘would find any items associated with a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory.’ Shropshire replied ‘yes,’ that he had let friends ‘cook’ methamphetamine in the residence. Shropshire consented to Smith’s request that they walk through the residence and that Shropshire point out items of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Once inside, Shropshire pointed out numerous items associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine.” Shopshire was then given proper Mirandawarnings and gave further statements.

The trial court in Shopshire suppressed the statement that Shopshire made to investigators prior to the Mirandawarnings but concluded that the statements made following Miranda would not be suppressed. The appellate court upheld the trial court finding that any violation of Miranda had been cured by the subsequent warnings and that the initial questioning did not violate the United States Supreme Court ruling in Missouri v. Siebertiii since there was no indication in the evidence that the officers were purposely attempting to undermine Shopshire’s 5th Amendment privilege and Miranda.

Author’s note: It should be noted that all of these cases deal with the admissibility of the subject’s statements and do not deal with the admissibility of the evidence seized as a result of the search warrant and located as a result of the statement. The physical evidence would not generally be impacted by the violation of Miranda and would be admissible as evidence. Statements that may be necessary toward establishing suspect knowledge and possession of the item would be excluded but not the physical evidence itself.


  i  U.S. v. Daubmann, 474 F.Supp. 2d 228 (Dist. Mass. 2007).
ii  Shopshire v. State, 2007 Ark. App. LEXIS 35 (App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 2007)
iii  Missouri v. Siebert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004) (holding that pre-Miranda questioning designed to      undermine the Miranda rights by getting the cat out of the bag pre- Miranda invalidates subsequent      Mirandized statements)

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