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Miranda Warnings Owed in Hospital Detention

Deborah Elkins//April 18, 2016

Miranda Warnings Owed in Hospital Detention

Deborah Elkins//April 18, 2016

Although defendant was in a hospital psychiatric unit on a civil detention order, he was under police guard and in custody when police questioned him about his wife’s injuries and hospitalization without giving him Miranda warnings, and the Dinwiddie County Circuit Court will suppress defen­dant’s statements in the hospital; the court also suppresses defendant’s statements to an investigator when defendant was trans­ferred to the sheriff’s office and questioning continued even though defendant had in­voked his right to counsel.

Custody is defined as a formal arrest or re­straint on freedom of movement associated with a formal arrest. The physical location where questioning is conducted is of second­ary concern to the custodial nature which triggers the necessity to provide Miranda warnings. Here, defendant was in custody on a civil detention order when questioned. He was twice physically restrained during this custody, each time limiting his move­ment and preventing his ability to walk away or leave the location where police were questioning him.

Two police officers were present during questioning and they closed the treatment room door before starting the questions. One officer questioned defendant about his wife’s injuries requiring hospitalization and never asked questions about other possible suspects indicating that defendant was the focus of his investigation. The court finds these circumstances objectively establish that defendant was in custody on a civil detention order and not at liberty to leave the officers. The court further finds the total circumstances surrounding the Jan. 9, 2015, questioning objectively indicate that police so completely limited defendant’s physical ability to leave the questioning that the re­straint on freedom of movement was consis­tent with the level of force applied to subdue a suspect under formal arrest.


The questions posed to defendant consti­tuted interrogation. The officer questions defendant about whether he and his wife had arguments or fights. He continued this line of questioning by providing medical in­formation specific to defendant’s wife, that she had a head injury and asking how she received a head injury. These directed ques­tions from police coupled with the officer’s actions to restrain the defendant objectively reveal that the questioning was intended to produce incriminating responses thereby constituting an interrogation.

The officer conceded he did not provide Miranda warnings. The court must exclude from evidence at trial defendant’s state­ments made to the officer in the hospital on Jan. 9, 2015.

When defendant said he did not want to answer any more questions and said “I want to talk to a lawyer,” the officer continued to question him about that request. Police arrested defendant upon expiration of the three-day civil detention order, and trans­ferred him to the sheriff’s office where they continued to question him about the same matters. An officer provided defendant with Miranda warnings but defendant was not afforded his previously invoked right to counsel.

Police are prohibited from initiating con­tact and questioning the defendant after invocation of his right to counsel. The court must exclude from evidence at trial any and all statements made by defendant to the in­vestigator on Jan. 12, 2015.

Motion to suppress granted.

Commonwealth v. Walton (Teefey) No. CR 15-25, Dec. 18, 2015; Dinwiddie County Cir. Ct. VLW 016-8-043, 9 pp.

VLW 016-8-043

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