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Washington Court Discusses Incriminating Statements in Criminal Cases

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2020 | Assault

As most people are aware, criminal defendants cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements and must be advised of their rights via a Miranda warning prior to any custodial interrogations. As such, any incriminating statement made by a person during a line of questioning that occurs prior to a Miranda warning may be precluded from evidence. Additionally, as discussed in a recent assault case, if a party makes an incriminating statement following such warnings, it may be inadmissible if the line of questioning as a whole constitutes a two-step interrogation. If you are charged with assault, it is wise to speak to a zealous Washington assault defense attorney to determine what arguments you may be able to set forth in your defense.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and his victim lived in an RV together. A passerby alerted the police to an altercation outside of the RV, which prompted the police to report to the scene. When they arrived, they asked the defendant what happened, and he responded that he was trying to fix things between him and the victim. He further stated that he had not choked the victim, he was just trying to get her to talk to him. The defendant was given a Miranda warning, after which he was questioned.

Allegedly, he again denied choking or hitting the victim but stated that he placed his hands on her shoulders. The defendant was charged with assault with domestic violence allegations. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to preclude the statements he made to the police during the investigation. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted, after which he appealed.

Statements Made During a Two-Step Interrogation

On appeal, the defendant argued that the police engaged in an improper two-step interrogation, and therefore any statements the defendant made to the police before and after his Miranda warnings should have been precluded. The appellate court noted that the Fifth Amendment requires that police provide a criminal suspect with Miranda warnings, prior to engaging in questioning, and that pre-warning statements made during a custodial interrogation must be suppressed.

Additionally, in some instances, statements made after Miranda warnings have been administered must be suppressed as well. Specifically, if the police obtain a pre-warning confession from a defendant in their custody and then procure another confession following the warning, it is what is known as a two-step interrogation. Statements made during the process might be inadmissible if they were obtained by a deliberate attempt to evade the Miranda warning process. In the subject case, the court found that the evidence did not show that the arresting officer deliberately engaged in a two-step process. As such, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Discuss Your Charges with a Zealous Washington Attorney

Criminal defendants cannot be compelled to make statements that will incriminate them, and if they are compelled to do so, it may constitute a violation of their constitutional rights. If you are accused of assault or another crime, the zealous Washington assault defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White can assist you in fighting to protect your rights and help you pursue the best legal result possible under the circumstances. You can reach us through our form online or by calling 253-363-8662 to schedule a conference.