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State v. D.R.

January 30, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
D.R., APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Grant County. Docket No: 94-8-00551-9. Date filed: 03/09/95. Judge signing: Hon. James R. Brown.

Petition for Review Denied July 15, 1997,

Authored by Philip J. Thompson. Concurring: John A. Schultheis, Ray E. Munson.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson

THOMPSON, J. D.R. appeals his juvenile conviction for first-degree incest, RCW 9A.64.020(1). His primary contention on appeal is that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made to a police officer in the assistant principal's office at his school. We agree and reverse.

D.R., a 14-year-old eighth-grader, was charged with engaging in sexual intercourse with his 13-year-old sister, M.R. During the trial, the State presented the testimony of J.K., who said he had seen D.R. and M.R. having what he believed to be sexual intercourse in June or July of 1994.

The State also presented the testimony of Sheriff's Detective Dave Matney, who interviewed D.R. the next September in the assistant principal's office at the child's school. A social worker and the assistant principal also were present during the interview. Detective Matney was dressed in plain clothes; his gun was not visible. Detective Matney told D.R. he did not have to answer questions, but he did not give D.R. the Miranda *fn1 warnings because he concluded the child was not in custody. The detective told D.R. he and the social worker had spoken to M.R. earlier. At the time of the interview, Detective Matney viewed D.R. as the "focus subject of the investigation." The detective conceded that his questions were "leading," and that he may have told D.R.: "We know already because [M.R.] told us."

D.R. testified he was summoned to the assistant principal's office, where Detective Matney showed him his badge and told him he was not required to answer questions. D.R. said the detective did not tell him he was free to leave, nor did he believe he was free to leave, based in part on his previous experience in the assistant principal's office. He testified the detective confronted him by saying, "We know you've been havin' sexual intercourse with your sister . . . ." D.R. also testified that at the time he did not know what incest was, and he did not know it was illegal for him to engage in sexual intercourse with his sister.

The trial Judge concluded that, although he was a "little concerned about [the] coercive environment" of the interview, D.R. was not in custody because "he did not even feel that he was talking about criminal violations. May be [sic] [he] could get in trouble with the principal or somebody but not the law." Detective Matney then was permitted to testify that D.R. had admitted having consensual sexual intercourse with M.R. between December 1993 and June 1994.

D.R. denied making the statements to Detective Matney, and denied having intercourse with M.R. He testified it was J.K. who was having intercourse with M.R., and that he interrupted them.

The trial court found it was clear there was an act of sexual intercourse involving M.R. that day, and the only factual question was whether D.R. or J.K. was involved. The court found J.K.'s testimony credible, and found D.R. guilty of incest.

The dispositive issue is whether the trial court erred in admitting D.R.'s statements to Detective Matney. Miranda warnings are designed to protect a defendant's right not to make incriminating statements while in the potentially coercive environment of custodial police interrogation.

State v. Harris, 106 Wash. 2d 784, 789, 725 P.2d 975 (1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 940, 94 L. Ed. 2d 781, 107 S. Ct. 1592 (1987); see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 10 A.L.R.3d 974 (1966). The Miranda rule applies when "the interview or examination is (1) custodial (2) interrogation (3) by a state agent." State v. Post, 118 Wash. 2d 596, 605, 826 P.2d 172, modified, 837 P.2d 599 (1992) (citing State v. Sargent, 111 Wash. 2d 641, 649-53, 762 P.2d 1127 (1988)). Unless a defendant has been given the Miranda warnings, his statements during police interrogation are presumed to be involuntary.

Sargent, 111 Wash. 2d at 647-48.

It is undisputed that Detective Matney was a state agent, that he interrogated D.R., and that the detective did not give the child the Miranda warnings. The question therefore is whether D.R. was in custody for ...


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