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Departments : Point of Law

Non-Custodial Stationhouse Interrogations

How to talk to suspects without Mirandizing.

January 01, 2009  |  by Devallis Rutledge - Also by this author

Stansbury v. California

After a 10-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped, and murdered, sheriff's homicide investigators contacted Robert Edward Stansbury as a possible witness to her disappearance. Stansbury agreed to come in and he accepted a ride to the station in a patrol car. He was not given Miranda warnings before he gave answers that indicated he was the likely perpetrator, after which he was arrested.

Although the California Supreme Court believed Stansbury was in custody as soon as suspicion focused on him, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected this erroneous standard for determining custody. The court ruled that Stansbury's interrogation was not custodial, and Miranda did not apply to his stationhouse questioning prior to arrest.

Thompson v. Keohane

Alaskan hunters discovered the body of Dixie Thompson. ,Her husband Carl was asked by state troopers to come to the station, ostensibly to identify her things. In fact, the troopers already suspected Thompson of murder. He drove to the station, where troopers assured him he was not under arrest and then questioned him without warnings for two hours. Thompson admitted killing Dixie, but the troopers allowed him to leave the station. Two hours later, they arrested him.

Thompson was convicted of murder, and appeals took him to the U.S. Supreme Court. On a procedural issue, the court sent his case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide the custody issue in light of the rulings in Mathiason, Beheler, and Stansbury. The lower courts then ruled that Thompson had not been in custody when he admitted the killing and did not need to have been Mirandized.

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

policediver16773 @ 2/3/2009 11:31 PM

Excellant article, and I'm a Canadian cop. Wonder if you may be able to do a piece about questioning before giving the Charter Rights??

Stephen Wells @ 10/4/2012 7:22 PM

Mr. Rutledge, great information. I read all your articles. Keep up the good work!

steven Szopinski @ 2/5/2013 12:43 AM

Great info

Mike G @ 7/25/2013 4:13 PM

Appreciate your briefs, and was happy to attend a recent L.A. CLEAR training class you presented on Search and Seizure, and interrogation legal aspects( and YES, I will buy your book!)

Doug J @ 10/3/2013 8:52 PM

What would happen to his statement if after the Non-Custodial interview he was arrested for his admitting to the crime. Trying to figure out why you have to let him leave.

Mike S @ 1/8/2014 7:04 PM

You don't have to let them leave, but it is one factor the court will consider when determining custody. Best to keep that factor in your favor and arrest later, so long as the subject is not a flight risk or threat to public.

Louis Shanks @ 8/27/2015 3:12 PM

When I was employed by a police agency, as a contractual (non LEO) investigator, I met a suspect at the house she worked at. I let her sit at the Kitchen door, told her she was free to leave at any time and not under arrest. Judge in Springfield IL tossed the case and said defendant felt she was not free to leave. She said she felt she was not free to leave because my car was parked behind hers.

Eladio Acuna @ 9/8/2015 10:31 AM

Beheler Admonition / person being interview is in a psychiatric facility/hospital ward: Is it required to provide admonition?

Travis Trotter @ 1/23/2018 1:27 AM

These are great cases. I do have a question, can any of these apply to roadside questioning where a vehicle is stopped and you've discovered evidence of a crime but want more information before making a formal custodial arrest?

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