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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Kelly - 991 F.2d 1308 (7th Cir. 1993)


In order for the Miranda requirements to apply, the defendant must have been subjected to a restraint on his freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest. Whether a suspect was in constructive custody depends upon the totality of the circumstances. The test is not whether the defendant was under the subjective belief that his or her movements were restricted, but whether a reasonable person in the defendant's position would believe that he or she was free to leave. A noncustodial situation is not converted to a custodial one simply because the questioning occurred in a "coercive environment." Any interview of one suspected of a crime by a police officer will have coercive aspects to it, simply by virtue of the fact that the officer is part of a law enforcement system which may ultimately cause the suspect to be charged with a crime. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has rejected the assertion that any statement made by a defendant while he is under some type of supervision "ipso facto" constitutes custodial interrogation.


A police officer stopped defendant Jeffrey Kelly for speeding and found alcohol and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle. When the officer asked for Kelly's permission to search him for drugs, Kelly pulled several gun cartridges out of his pocket. In response to further questioning, Kelly advised the officer that he had a loaded gun, which was concealed underneath his pants leg. The officer took the gun and arrested Kelly. After the arrest, the police officer advised Kelly of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona. Kelly then admitted that the gun was his, and said he had purchased it for protection. At trial in federal district court, Kelly filed a motion to suppress the gun and the statements he made to the officer after his arrest. Kelly contended that his arrest was warrantless and not supported by probable cause, and that the officer improperly interrogated him before advising him of his Miranda rights. Because the interrogation was unlawful, he contended, all of his responses should be suppressed. He also argued that the search was illegal, so the gun should have been suppressed as well. The district court denied the motion, holding that the officer’s search of the car was supported by probable cause and that Kelly was not in custody when the officer questioned him. Consequently, Kelly was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1). Kelly appealed.


Were the search, interrogation and arrest of Kelly unlawful?




The appellate court affirmed the district court's judgment. The court ruled that the officer's pre-arrest questions did not constitute a custodial interrogation because Kelly's freedom of movement was not restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest. According to the court, once Kelly produced the cartridges, the officer was permitted to pursue the location of the gun under the public safety exception to Miranda's requirements. The court further found that Kelly was not entitled to a new trial where there was strong evidence of guilt and the district court's prompt instruction to the jury cured any prejudice resulting from the prosecutor's improper appeal to the jury's emotions.

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