Admissibility of Statements in Criminal Cases
FROM: Juan Ortega
TO: Assistant Prosecutor
The statements that Danny made to the officer at the scene are inadmissible. This is because for any testimonial evidence to be used in a criminal proceeding, the Miranda rule must apply. The Miranda rule entails the Miranda warning that is required to be given by law enforcers in the U.S to criminal suspects while in custody or under arrest before they are interrogated. The Miranda warning involves informing the suspects of their constitutional rights before interrogation. The Miranda warning is a safeguard against self-incrimination and is not a requirement for detection (Coldrey, 1991).
A suspect should be appropriately informed of his Miranda rights before making statements that incriminate him in a criminal prosecution. Such a suspect should knowingly and intelligently waive the rights for the statements to qualify as admissible evidence in a criminal proceeding. The statements that Danny made to the police officer at the crime scene are not admissible since Danny had not been informed of his Miranda rights. He was not also under arrest since the police had not decided on whether to arrest him or let him go. He was only under brief detention. The statements he made to the police in the interview room qualify as admissible evidence in a criminal proceeding since Danny was properly informed of his Miranda rights (Coldrey, 1990).
Danny's statements to the officer at the scene are not admissible because they resulted from a normal chat and include a statement of where he lived. After Danny clearly indicated where he lived and it is the place that the police found Willie unconscious and shot with the apartment. This information together with the statement about the rampant crime in the area can not be used as testimonial evidence in a criminal proceeding. This is because Danny had not been informed of his Miranda rights. A suspect should first be informed of his/her Miranda rights before gathering any evidence from his/her statement that can be admissible in a criminal prosecution (Coldrey, 1991).
According to the Miranda rule, any incriminating statement made by a suspect is considered as inadmissible if the suspect was not informed of his right to decline to make incriminating statements. A suspect should be informed of his rights so that he can knowingly waive the rights in order to make statements that are admissible as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Since Danny was not informed of the rights and did not get a chance to waive them either, then the statements to the law enforcer at the crime scene are not admissible as evidence in the proceeding. This does not make the statements irrelevant in the whole process. It only limits the extent to which they can be used. They can be used to strengthen other evidence but they can not be used independently as evidence in the criminal proceeding (Coldrey, 1990).
The statements that Danny makes in form of writing after he was arrested are however admissible in a criminal proceeding. This is because Danny had been appropriately informed of his rights and had knowingly and intelligently waived them. The warning process consists of three steps to make the statements made by the suspect admissible as evidence in prosecuting them. First, the warning must be given and then the suspect must acknowledge that they have been provided and that they understand their meaning. Finally, the suspect must intelligently waive them. If this process is followed, the statements made by a suspect either in writing or by word of mouth can be used against them in a criminal prosecution. Since this was followed by the officers, then the statements that the drugs belonged to him and that he shot Willie following an argument regarding the drugs can be used against him. All the statements that Danny made to the officer are admissible including those that he made in respond to the officer's questions. Although Danny kept on saying that he was through with his statement, the information that he gave even after that was still admissible since he had already waived his Miranda rights. The information taped and recorded by the officer will thus be admissible (Stigall, 2009).
For Miranda rule to apply, six elements must be present:
- Facts must have been assembled.
- The facts provided must be testimonial
- The evidence must have been collected while the suspect is under arrest
- The evidence must have resulted from an interrogation
- The interrogation must have been carried out by state agents
- The evidence must be provided by the state in the course of a criminal prosecution
The statements made by Danny while at the crime scene are further not admissible since the situation then did not fulfill the six factors. One of the factors is that the suspect must be under arrest. When Danny was making the statements, he was not under arrest then. He was only arrested after he informed the officer of the apartment that he lived in. questioning a person on the street or a suspect briefly detained does not satisfy the Miranda rule (Stigall, 2009).
The statement he made after he was arrested are however admissible in a criminal prosecution since the six factors are evident. The interrogation is carried out with the intention of gathering some evidence. This fulfills the first requirement. The second factor requires that the evidence collected be testimonial. According to the Fifth Amendment, testimonial evidence means statements that explicitly of implicitly disclose some facts concerning a crime. The statements made by Danny constitute testimonial evidence since they disclosed some important information concerning the shooting and the alleged cause for the shooting. The third condition requires that the suspect is under arrest. Danny was under arrest while making these statements which qualifies the statements he made as admissible evidence (Stigall, 2009).
The fourth requirement is that the evidence must result from an interrogation. This means that the facts collected to be used in a criminal prosecution must have been derived from an interrogation. Interrogation means expressed and intended questioning by a police officer. While in custody, Danny was questioned and thus the Miranda rule applies. The statements he made to the police officer at the crime scene were voluntary as they resulted from a chit chat with the officer. He was not being interrogated when he made the statements. After all, he was not under arrest. What he said then led to his arrest. The fifth requirement is that the statements must be made to a state agent. The interrogation to obtain the evidence must be conducted by state-agent. The police officer who interrogated Danny is a state agent. The sixth requirement is that the evidence is offered in a criminal proceeding. The police are obviously interrogating Danny with the aim of getting evidence to be used in a criminal suit (Stigall, 2009).