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Constitutional rights are waived


On 20 December 1994, a certain person was shot in his apartment on Parkside Avenue, Brooklyn. On 27 December 1994, criminal defendant got arrested and charged with possession of a weapon. During his interview, the arresting officers suspected that he was involved in the 20 December 1994 shooting. Thus, the defendant was indicted for that shooting incident. Defendant then moved to suppress, as the product of his unlawful detention on an unrelated weapons charge, two guns used in the shooting and delivered to the stationhouse by his wife; to suppress the admissions made by him on the additional ground that his withdrawal from heroin, together with police conduct during his lengthy detention, coerced his admissions.

After the court determined that the police acted without probable cause or reasonable suspicion in grabbing the defendant as he walked upon a public street, placing him up against a car and conducting a search which revealed a 9mm firearm, found that two questions remained: whether the recovery of two additional guns with ammunition, brought by the defendant’s wife to the stationhouse where the defendant was detained, as sufficiently attenuated from the primary illegality and whether the defendant’s statements regarding the shooting, given some twenty-three hours following his arrest, were voluntarily made.

Here, the two guns and ammunition brought to the station house by the defendant’s wife were not sufficiently attenuated from the primary illegality and, therefore, must be suppressed.
In determining whether secondary incriminating evidence was acquired by means sufficiently independent of the Fourth Amendment violation so as to have been purged of the illegality, courts have considered these factors: the temporal proximity between the arrest and the evidence; the presence of intervening circumstances; and the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.

In the case at bar, prior to admitting his involvement in the shooting, the defendant was unlawfully in police custody for almost twenty-three hours. During this time, he was subjected to questioning by various police officers. He was awake for most, if not all, of the night and morning following his arrest. He was transported to Central Booking for arraignment and each time returned to the precinct without being arraigned. The defendant was not offered anything of substance to eat until eighteen hours after his arrest. Moreover, it is undisputed that the defendant was a heroin addict who had last used heroin sometime prior to 7:50 p.m. on December 27th, the day he got arrested. It is also undisputed that on December 29th at 5:00 p.m., the defendant was diagnosed as suffering opioid withdrawal. Heroin withdrawal symptoms begin to occur within 8 to 12 hours following the last use and subside over a period of five to seven days. Neither intoxication nor heroin withdrawal will render a confession inadmissible unless the state of intoxication or withdrawal has risen to the decree of mania or has resulted in the sudden loss of defendant’s capacity to understand either the nature of his legal rights or the consequences that would follow from their waiver. However, the defendant did not allege that he did not understand Miranda warnings or that he failed to appreciate the consequences of a waiver of his constitutional rights. Rather, he argued that his physical condition on the afternoon and evening of December 28th, together with all of the other circumstances of his lengthy detention, were unduly coercive and compelled his admissions. The credible evidence, including the undisputed medical evidence, supported this contention.
When a person in custody has been advised of constitutional rights and voluntarily and intelligently waives those rights, the police are not required to repeat the warnings prior to subsequent questioning if such questioning occurs within a reasonable time thereafter and custody has been continuous. However, the defendant here had been returned from Central Booking twice and, twenty-one hours after the first warning, and was being questioned about a totally unrelated crime which the police had reason to believe he committed. Miranda warnings were not re-administered until after the defendant admitted his involvement in this crime. Moreover, before giving the defendant his Miranda warnings, he was reminded that he had previously waived his rights and confronted him with the prior written waiver. Thus, he in effect suggested to the defendant that having once waived his rights he could not decline to do so again.

Clearly, there was a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant voluntarily waived his constitutional rights a second time and freely gave statements, or whether the waiver and admissions were subtly or otherwise coerced. Obviously, the People failed to establish that defendant’s will had not been overborne and his capacity for self-determination had not been critically impaired.

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