Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 3, 2023
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 3, 2023//
Appellant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter is affirmed. The police did not unlawfully detain and arrest him, nor was he improperly questioned.
“On appeal, Smith argues the circuit court erred in denying his motions to suppress evidence because the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they seized and detained him for investigation. …
“Officers Paradis and Graham had sufficient reasonable articulable suspicion to detain Smith[.] … At the time he was detained, law enforcement officers observed Smith wandering aimlessly at the edge of the woods connected to the scene of the crime 30 minutes after the shooting.
“He was lightly dressed in cold weather at 10:00 p.m. Smith’s appearance matched the description of one of the shooters, but for the hoodie, which the officers could reasonably conclude he had discarded.
“A 911 caller reported that someone in the area was offering cash for a ride to ‘escape.’ All of these facts supported reasonable, articulable suspicion that Smith was involved in the shooting and, thus, his detention did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
“We reject Smith’s contention that because Officer Paradis did not personally view Smith engage in any criminal conduct, the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to detain him. The ‘Fourth Amendment does not require a policeman … to simply shrug his shoulders and allow a crime to occur or a criminal to escape.’ …
“Prince William police had already responded to the scene of the nearby shooting, learned the description of two suspected shooters, and sent a radio transmission to be on the lookout for the suspects.
“Officer Paradis knew via radio transmission that other officers had investigated the scene, confirmed this was a murder investigation involving three victims, and that multiple suspects fled the scene.
“Thus, he had reasonable articulable suspicion that Smith was involved in the criminal activity under investigation and was justified in detaining him.”
“Smith next argues that because two officers detained him at gunpoint with handcuffs he was effectively arrested, requiring probable cause rather than reasonable articulable suspicion.
“‘Once an officer has lawfully stopped a suspect, he is “authorized to take such steps as [are] reasonably necessary to protect [his and others’] personal safety and to maintain the status quo during the course of the stop.”’ …
“Officers Paradis and Graham used methods to detain Smith that were reasonable under the circumstances. Officers Paradis and Graham were investigating a shooting in which an armed suspect had fled the scene. They had reasonable articulable suspicion that Smith was involved in the shooting and that he could be armed and dangerous.
“Thus, it was reasonable to detain Smith at gunpoint and with handcuffs. Notwithstanding these measures, Officer Paradis instructed Smith that although he was being detained for investigative purposes, he was not under arrest.”
“Smith argues that even if the initial seizure was permissible, after he gave an innocent explanation that he was the victim of an attempted robbery the officers no longer had cause to detain him, and his continued detention therefore violated his Fourth Amendment rights. …
“The original call for emergency service indicated that the perpetrators of the shooting fled the scene. The evidence outlined above, coupled with his own statements to law enforcement, indicated that Smith was one of the two fleeing from the shooting scene.
“While there was a possibility that Smith was innocent of criminal activity, his claimed explanation for his presence there did not negate the reasonable articulable suspicion that he was involved in the shooting.
“Smith’s own statements indicated his involvement in a nearby shooting to some degree, and the officers were therefore reasonable in continuing his detention to fully investigate whether Smith was a perpetrator or victim of criminal conduct.”
Statements to police
“Smith contends that the police violated his Fifth Amendment rights and the circuit court erred in refusing to suppress the statement he made at police headquarters. …
“Smith argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish that Detective Perla read Smith his Miranda rights because Detective Perla did not record it with his body worn camera and, thus, violated his own department’s procedures for advising suspects of their rights. We disagree.
“Although there was no audio recording of a recitation of Miranda rights, the evidence established that Detective Perla gave the Miranda warnings while Smith was detained in the vehicle, Smith waived his rights, and he chose to speak to the officer.
“Consistent with Detective Perla’s testimony, Officer Graham’s body worn camera showed that Perla removed a folder with a preprinted card from his pocket when he approached Smith in the vehicle.
“Detective Perla testified that at 10:33 p.m. he pulled out his laminated Miranda card and read Smith his rights from that card. Smith confirmed that he understood his rights and wanted to talk to the detective.
“In light of this evidence, we find no basis to disturb the circuit court’s finding of fact that Detective Perla properly advised Smith of his Miranda rights.”
“Smith argues that he did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive his Miranda rights. …
“Detective Perla testified that after he read Smith his Miranda rights, Smith responded that he understood his rights and wanted to talk.
“After he was transported to police headquarters, Detective Perla reminded Smith that the officer had recited the Miranda warnings. Smith did not indicate that he did not wish to speak to Perla.
“At the time of his arrest, Smith was 19 years old and had experienced 3 prior arrests for unrelated conduct. Smith had no injuries other than scratches on his arms, for which he repeatedly refused medical treatment.
“There is no evidence in the record that Smith was under the influence of any mind-altering substances or mentally incapacitated.
“In fact, he communicated clearly with the officers from the moment he was detained through the end of his interview. The interview lasted four and a half hours, but Smith had four thirty-minute breaks during that time, and he was attentive and responsive when questioned.
“We find no basis to disturb the circuit court’s conclusion that Smith knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights. …
“We reject Smith’s claim that his statement was involuntary because the officers suggested he would be punished less severely if he confessed and appealed to Smith’s religious preferences. Such circumstances do not invalidate the circuit court’s findings or automatically render a defendant’s statements involuntary. …
“During his questioning, Smith ‘engaged in a cautious give-and-take,’ ‘answered those questions he wanted to answer and skirted those he did not want to answer,’ and ultimately ‘never broke down and became “putty in the hands” of the interrogator or a “parrot” for words put into his mouth.’ …
“The record contains no evidence of coercive conduct by the police.”
Smith v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0753-22-4, Sept. 12, 2023. CAV (unpublished opinion) (Humphreys) From the Circuit Court of Prince William County. (Hudson) Shalev Ben-Avraham, Senior Assistant Public Defender, for appellant. Collin C. Crookenden, Assistant Attorney General (Jason S. Miyares, Attorney General; Katherine Quinlan Adelfio, Assistant Attorney General, on brief) for appellee. VLW 023-7-353, 23 pp.