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Although the circumstances of each case must certainly influence a determination of whether a suspect is "in custody" for purposes of receiving Miranda protection, the ultimate inquiry is simply whether there is a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest.
A California trial court convicted the defendant of aiding and abetting first-degree murder after the court admitted into evidence two interviews that the defendant had with the police. The defendant had called the police and voluntarily agreed to go to the station house although the police told the defendant that he was not under arrest. At the station house, the defendant talked about the murder but the police did not advise him of his Miranda rights. The defendant was permitted to return to his home, and he was arrested 5 days later. After he was advised of his Miranda rights at that time, he waived those rights and gave a second confession. The trial court found that it was not necessary to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights prior to the first interview. The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District reversed the conviction, holding that the first interview constituted custodial interrogation and required Miranda warnings.
Are Miranda warnings required if the suspect is not placed under arrest, voluntarily comes to the police station, and is allowed to leave unhindered by police after a brief interview?
The Court held that at the first interview, Miranda warnings were not required because defendant was neither taken into custody nor significantly deprived of his freedom of action in any way. Miranda warnings were not required simply because the questioning took place in the station house or because the questioned person was one whom the police suspected. That the police knew much about defendant before his interview was irrelevant, especially because it was defendant who had initiated the earlier communication with police. The length of time that elapsed between the commission of the crime and the police interview had no relevance to the inquiry. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case. Defendant's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the State's petition for writ of certiorari were granted.