What are Non-Custodial Interrogations?

Individuals interrogated in a non-custodial vs. a custodial interrogation setting enjoy fewer protections than those interrogated while in custody. In the seminal Miranda case, the United States Supreme Court stated that the famed Miranda warnings[1] must be administered by the police only during custodial interrogations. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). Thus, “Miranda does not apply to noncustodial interrogation.” State v. Zucconi, 50 N.J. 361, 363 (1967). The Miranda Court explained that such custodial interrogations begin upon “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. at 444. The Miranda decision was re-endorsed by the United States Supreme Court in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000).

Since Miranda, the United States Supreme Court and the New Jersey Supreme Court have held that the question of “custody” is determined by reference to whether a reasonable person would believe that he or she is free to leave. Califronia v. Hodari D.., 499 U.S. 621, 628 (1991); State v. Tucker, 136 N.J. 158, 163-165 (1994). There  is a considerable amount of jurisprudence on the  issue of custody. Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495 (1977).  See State v. Lacaillade, 266 N.J. Super. 522, 527 (App. Div. 1993) (Miranda warnings not required where suspect, a police officer, was questioned at police headquarters without the threat of interrogation. Beckwith v. United States, 425 U.S. 341 347 (1976); State v. PZ, 152 N.J. 86, 102-105 (1997) (Defendant interviewed in his home, with his father nearby, by a caseworker from the Division of Youth and Family Services regarding potential child abuse, was not subjected to custodial interrogation); State v. Keating, 277 N.J. Super. 141, 143 (App. Div. 1994) (questioning by investigators, who questioned a defendant in the living room of his home, did not constitute custodial interrogation even though investigators kept tabs on defendant as he performed domestic chores, took a shower and changed his clothes). However, an individual questioned in his or her bedroom has been found to be not free to leave and consequently under arrest. Orozco v. Texas, 394 U.S. 324, 326-327 (1969). In State v. Stott, N.J. 343 (200), the defendant, a patient in a state psychiatric hospital, was in custody when he gave incriminating statements during police interviews, where the defendant was questioned by four law enforcement officers in a secluded basement area within the complex, isolated from other patients. The issue is not what the police have in mind, but whether the defendant reasonably believed he or she was in custody when being questioned. Stansburg v. Califronia, 511 U.S. 318, 114, S. Ct. 1526, 128 L.Ed.2d 293, 299-300 (1994); States v. Graves, 60 N.J. 441, 449-50 (1971); State v. Keating, 277 N.J. Super. at 148.

 A suspect must be warned as follows:

He or she has the right to remain silent:

  • Any statement he or she does make may be used as evidence against him or her;
  • He or she has a right to the presence of an attorney;
  • If he or she cannot afford an attorney, an attorney will be appointed for him or her; and
  • He or she has the continuing opportunity to exercise these rights at any time during the questioning.

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966)

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