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Oregon v. Mathiason

Facts

The defendant, a parolee, was suspected of being involved in a residential burglary. The officer investigating the burglary left his card at the defendant’s apartment, with a note asking him to call the officer “to discuss something.” The defendant called the officer the next day. When the officer asked the defendant where it would be convenient to meet, the defendant expressed no preference. The officer asked if the defendant could come to the police station to meet. The defendant agreed and voluntarily went to the station. The officer met the defendant in the hallway, shook his hand, and took him into an office. He told the defendant that he was not under arrest. The officer closed the office door and the two sat down. The officer explained that he wanted to talk to the defendant about a burglary, and that the district attorney or judge would possibly consider his truthfulness. The officer told the defendant that he was suspected of committing the burglary and falsely claimed his fingerprints had been found at the scene of the crime. The defendant considered this information, then admitted his involvement in the burglary. At that point, the officer advised the defendant of his Miranda rights for the first time, secured a waiver, and obtained a taped confession. Once the taping had been completed, the defendant was released and told that the matter would be turned over to the district attorney for a determination on whether charges would be filed.

Issue

Whether the defendant was in “custody” when he made his initial incriminating statement?

Held

No. At the time he was being questioned, the defendant was not in “custody.”

Discussion

Officers must provide Miranda warnings to any person who is being subjected to a “custodial interrogation.” The phrase “custodial interrogation” means “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.” Here, the defendant voluntarily came to the patrol station where the officer immediately advised him that he was not under arrest. At the close of the interview, the defendant was allowed to leave. For these reasons, the Court held that the defendant was not in “custody” or “otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”

Citation

429 U.S. 492, 97 S. Ct. 711 (1977)

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