Yarborough v. Alvarado 541 U.S. 652, 124 S. Ct. 2140, 158 L. Ed.2d 938 (2004)
Alvaredo was 17 years old when
the police suspected Alvarado and another teen, Soto, of stealing a truck
and killing a guy. They called his parents, who brought him to the police
station. They separated him from his parents and questioned him for 2
hours. He confessed.
At no time did the police
tell Alvarado he had the right to remain silent, as required by Miranda
v. Arizona (384 U.S. 486 (1966))
(aka a Miranda Warning).
The police do not like to
give warnings because it decreases the chance that the suspect will
most people waive their rights anyway.
Most of the questioning was
directed at getting Alvarado to implicate Soto, not to get Alvarado to
After the confession, Alvarado
was arrested on suspicion of robbery, and his statements to the police
were used against him at trial.
The Trial Court convicted
Alvarado of robbery. He appealed.
Alvarado argued that the
confession should be inadmissible because had not been warned.
The prosecution argued that
Alvarado came to the police station of his own volition, and was not
"in custody" at the time he made his statements. He was always
free to leave. It was just a friendly chat.
The Appellate Court upheld the
conviction. Alvarado filed a writ of habeus corpus in Federal court.
The Federal Trial Court upheld
the conviction. Alvarado appealed.
The Federal Appellate Court
overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
The Federal Appellate Court
found that since Alvarado was young and inexperienced, he was less likely
to understand that he was not in custody and was not compelled to answer.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and upheld the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that there is an objective standard; would a reasonable person feel they
were in custody. Alvarado was arguing a subjective standard; would
Alvarado have felt he was in custody.
The Court noted that the
whole purpose of the Miranda
decision was to provide the police with a clear rule so they do not need
"to make guesses as to the circumstances at issue before deciding
how they may interrogate a suspect."
The Court looked objectively
at the facts of the case and found that a reasonable person in Alvarado's
situation would have understood that they were not in custody.
The Court used a Totality
of the Circumstances test.
The Court noted that there
was a decent argument that Alvarado was in custody, but it was reasonable
for the Trial Court to have concluded that he wasn't, and the Supreme
Court should defer to the Trial Court's conclusion unless it was
unreasonable (that's the standard for a habeus corpus appeal).
In a dissent it was argued
that common sense would say that it was unreasonable to assume that
someone in Alvarado's position would feel that they could just stand up
and walk out of interrogation room and go home.
In addition, the dissent
felt that an objective standard might not be the right standard, because
Alvarado was not a middle-aged person well versed in police tactics, he
was just a kid.
Btw, a Terry stop is not an arrest, and the suspect is not considered to be in custody, so there is no
requirement for Miranda Warning.