By petition filed pursuant to Family Court Act §310.1, respondent is alleged to have committed acts which, were she an adult, would constitute the crimes of Robbery in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Petit larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree.
A Queens County Criminal attorney said that the Presentment Agency intends to offer a statement she alleges was involuntarily made or obtained in violation of Family Court Act §305.2 by law enforcement personnel, respondent has moved for an order suppressing the introduction of her statement at the prospective fact-finding hearing.
Upon a motion to suppress an out-of-court statement as involuntarily made, or as obtained in violation of Family Court Act §305.2, the Presentment Agency bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the statement was voluntarily made and lawfully obtained.
In order to determine whether respondent’s statement was lawfully obtained, a hearing was conducted before the Court in September 2008. New York City Police was the sole witness at the hearing.
According to the Officer, she was on routine patrol in Queens County in April 2008. At approximately 3:30 P.M. that day, the Officer and her partner were situated in the vicinity of Jamaica Avenue when a person who identified herself came up to us and said she was robbed by four girls. The officers then proceeded to investigate the robbery complaint made which led to the arrest of three individuals. After the Officer and her partner took the three females into custody they “called the supervisor to the scene to verify the arrest” and a patrol supervisor responded to the radio call. According to her, after the Sergeant arrived at the arrest location he said that they were under arrest and they had to go back to the station house.” At that point, the Sergeant and another officer transported respondent and the two other arrested individuals to the 103rd Precinct while the Officer and her partner drove to the 103rd Precinct in a separate police vehicle.
The Officer testified that after the officers and the three arrested females arrived at the precinct, “[t]hey were placed under arrest and brought them back to the juvenile room.” According to her, the three juveniles remained handcuffed and they were placed on a bench inside of the juvenile room where they were kept under observation by herself and another Officer. The Officer then proceeded to complete paperwork relating to the arrests and at some point in the process the respondent made a statement.
The Officer testified that the respondent stated that she knew where the phone was on another individual girl that wasn’t apprehended at the scene. According to the Officer, she, the other Officer and the three juveniles were the only people inside of the juvenile room after their initial arrival at the precinct and Officer stated that none of the three suspects were advised of their Miranda rights at any time because, as she explained, she didn’t see a reason to, we were not asking any questions. The Officer recalled that after approximately ten minutes, the Sergeant entered the juvenile room and he stood about ten to twelve feet away from the three handcuffed suspects who were still seated on the bench.
He then stated to the three criminal suspects that she said that you knew where the phone was.” According to her, after the Sergeant made the statement, “[h]e stood there and just looked at them for about a minute” and then the respondent stated that she knew where the cell phone was.
The evidence in the record establishes that respondent was arrested by the Officer and her partner for committing a robbery and associated crimes in the vicinity of Jamaica Avenue in Queens County in April 2008. After their arrests, respondent and the two other juveniles were handcuffed and transported to the 103rd Precinct by the Sergeant and another officer. Upon their arrival at the precinct, the criminal respondent and others remained handcuffed and they were placed on a bench inside of the juvenile room where they remained with the Officers.
This evidence conclusively establishes that respondent was in police custody at the time she implicated herself by responding to the statement made by the Sergeant, since a reasonable person of a similar age in respondent’s position, innocent of any wrongdoing, would have concluded that she was a suspect in a criminal investigation and was not free to leave the precinct.
With few exceptions, none of which appear to be relevant here. In this State the protection of the rights of juveniles who have been arrested for criminal conduct is afforded a high priority.
In this case, no Miranda warnings were administered to the respondent or the two other arrested juvenile after they were taken into custody because, as Officer Brown explained, there was no intention on her part to question them concerning the incident. Likewise, there was no administration of the warnings after the Sergeant entered the juvenile room approximately ten minutes later. At that point, the uncontradicted testimony establishes that the sergeant stood about ten to twelve feet away from the handcuffed juveniles who were seated together on a bench. According to the Officer, the Sergeant then stood in place and he “just looked at them for about a minute” and then the respondent incriminated herself by stating that she knew where the cell phone was.
The Sergeant appears not to have directed his statement at any of the three juveniles in particular, he was not called as a witness by the Presentment Agency so the record contains no direct evidence as to what motivated his actions. In any event, the testimony of the Sergeant would not be determinative.
Based upon the record of the hearing, the Court finds that the Presentment Agency has failed to meet its initial burden of demonstrating the legality of the conduct of the police officers involved in this case, especially the unexplained conduct of the Sergeant. The record conclusively establishes that none of the police officers involved in respondent’s arrest administered Miranda warnings to her at any time prior to her making the statement, and the only reasonable conclusion supported by this record is that the Sergeant intended to elicit an incriminating statement from one or more of the suspects when he entered the juvenile room and that his actions were likely to elicit such a statement.
The violation of the respondent’s right against self-incrimination occasioned by the actions of the police officers in this case cannot be countenanced and her statement is therefore not admissible at the fact-finding hearing.
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