Recently a state appellate court issued a decision in a defendant’s appeal regarding statements he made to police prior to his arrest in a Virginia assault case. The case arose when police questioned the defendant about his involvement in a shooting while he was receiving treatment for a gunshot wound at a hospital. Hospital staff contacted police after admitting the man for a gunshot wound. Initially, detectives were unsure whether the defendant was a victim or a perpetrator. There were four detectives and a security guard present while two detectives questioned the defendant about his involvement. During questioning, the defendant’s family member arrived and remained in the room.
Additionally, hospital staff continued to provide medical treatment and collect identification and insurance information from the defendant. Following the questioning, the detective went to another hospital to interview two shooting victims who were believed to be involved in the incident. At that point, they discovered that the defendant was the perpetrator. After the defendant was discharged from the hospital, detectives escorted him to the police department, advised him of his Miranda rights, and arrested him. On appeal, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to the detectives at the hospital. He argued that his statements were made in the absence of a Miranda warning.
Under Virginia law, police must advise anyone accused in a criminal case of their Miranda rights before conducting a police interrogation. However, Miranda warnings are unnecessary when the interviewee’s freedom has not been restricted in a way that amounts to being “in custody.” There are various factors that courts use to determine whether a suspect was in custody. These factors include, how the person was summoned to the police, the neutrality of the surroundings, the number of officers present, the degree of physical restraint, the duration and character of the interrogation, and the extent to which the interviewee believed the police found them culpable.
In this case, the court reasoned that the police did not summon the defendant; instead, he voluntarily transported himself to the hospital where he encountered the detectives. The court also noted that the setting was familiar and neutral because the defendant chose where he sought medical treatment. Additionally, the detectives did not interfere or delay his medical treatment. Further, although five officers were present, only two were consistently present in the room, and only one was uniformed. Further, the defendant was not handcuffed, locked in his hospital room, or otherwise restrained. Finally, although the defendant argued that the interrogation was coercive, the court found that a reasonable person would not have believed that he was in custody.
Have You Been Arrested for a Virginia Crime?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious crime, contact the Virginia criminal defense attorneys at Robinson Law PLLC. The attorneys at our criminal defense law firm have successfully represented numerous Virginia clients in their criminal cases. Our dedicated team of attorneys can help you defend your rights in cases stemming from Virginia assault charges, weapons crimes, drug crimes, and sex offenses. Contact our office at 703-542-3616, to schedule a free consultation.