Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hospital Questioning Not "Custodial"

US v. Jamison: Jamison was driven to the hospital by two friends. When he arrived, he told a police officer hanging around near the front door that he'd been shot. While he was being treated for his wound, Jamison was questioned by that officer regarding how he got shot. The officer had Jamison's hands bagged so they could be tested for evidence of gun shot residue. A detective, who responded to the hospital after word of a shooting had gone out, then questioned Jamison about what happened. Jamison told a different story than he originally told the officer. The detective then examined Jamison's wound and clothing and concluded that they did not match up with Jamison's story. After further questioning, Jamison eventually admitted that he shot himself. He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Prior to trial, Jamison sought to suppress his statements at the hospital because he had never been given Miranda warnings while being questioned in police custody. The district court agreed and suppressed the statements. The Government appealed.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed. The court held that there was no requirement that Jamison be given Miranda warnings because he was never "in custody" of the police. Instead, the restraints on Jamison's liberty that allowed him to be questioned were ones directly related to medical treatment that he sought ("Absent police-impose restraint, there is no custody."). Furthermore, the questioning by police was the type that a reasonable person would expect to occur when he reports that he has been the victim of a violent crime. As for the bagging of the hands, the officer testified that it was a routine procedure done to both potential victims and perpetrators of shootings.

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