FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CR-2014-1737-6]
HONORABLE MARK LINDSAY, JUDGE
Klebanoff, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
W. GRUBER, Judge.
Fairl Cain was charged in the Circuit Court of Washington
County with negligent homicide the day after a truck crashed,
burned, and resulted in a fatality. The circuit court denied
Cain's motion to suppress statements he made at the scene
to Corporal Jason Davis of the Arkansas State Police, in
which Cain admitted that he was the driver and had recently
consumed alcohol and prescription drugs. Cain was convicted
in a jury trial and was sentenced as a habitual offender to
forty years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of
Correction. He now appeals, contending that the denial of his
motion to suppress was error and arguing that his statements
were inadmissible because they were custodial and he had not
been advised of his Miranda rights. We affirm.
reverse a circuit court's ruling on a motion to suppress
only when it is clearly erroneous. Collins v. State,
2014 Ark.App. 574, at 4, 446 S.W.3d 199, 203. Custodial
interrogation has been defined as the questioning initiated
by law enforcement officers after a person is taken into
custody or otherwise deprived of action in any significant
way. State v. Spencer, 319 Ark. 454, 457, 892 S.W.2d
484, 485 (1995) (citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436, 444 (1965)). A person is "in custody" for
purposes of Miranda warnings when he or she is
"deprived of his freedom by formal arrest or restraint
on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal
arrest." Hall v. State, 361 Ark. 379, 389, 206
S.W.3d 830, 837 (2005) (citing Wofford v. State, 330
Ark. 8, 28, 952 S.W.2d 646, 656 (1997)). The Miranda
safeguards become applicable as soon as a suspect's
freedom of action is curtailed to a degree associated with
formal arrest. Spencer, 319 Ark. at 457, 892 S.W.2d
at 485 (citing Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420
suppression hearing, Corporal Davis testified to events that
occurred on the evening of August 27, 2014. He received a
call about a burning vehicle, drove to the rural crash scene,
and arrived around midnight-about an hour after the crash had
occurred. Cain was standing on the roadside with
sheriff's deputies and paramedics who were administering
medical treatment to him. He had a large laceration on his
face. First responders told Davis that Cain had wandered
away-"down the road a little"-but had returned on
his own to the scene of the crash. Davis turned his attention
to Cain after learning that a crash victim, Danielle Bishop,
further testified that investigating the crash was his
responsibility and that sheriff's deputies simply kept
traffic away and secured the area. Davis stated, "I
questioned [Cain] and he admitted he was the driver of the
vehicle. I also asked him if he had consumed any alcohol and
he said he had a few beers." Davis testified that he did
not arrest Cain, that Cain was not handcuffed or placed in
the patrol car, that "because he was part of a traffic
crash . . . he had to stay to give information on the crash,
" and that he was "detained" while Davis was
asking questions and trying to identify the driver. No one
from law enforcement accompanied Cain when the decision was
made to transport him by ambulance to a hospital, where his
blood sample was taken shortly after arrival. Davis testified
that a reason for taking the sample, besides there being a
requirement to test the blood or urine of a person involved
in a fatal accident, was that Davis suspected intoxication.
Cain spent the night in the hospital. The next day, after
being medically released from the hospital, he was arrested
at Davis's request.
and the State repeat on appeal the arguments they made below,
where Cain contended that his statements should have been
suppressed because he made them while in custody without
being Mirandized. He argued that this was not a routine
traffic stop, that leaving the scene of a personal-injury
accident is a felony, that knowledge of the law is presumed,
and that-for Fifth Amendment and Miranda purposes-a
reasonable person in his shoes would not have believed he was
free to leave. Citing Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S.
420 (1981), the State responded that this was an
investigation rather than an in-custody interrogation and
that the statements were admissible. In Berkemer,
where a motorist was detained after a traffic stop but not
arrested, his statements in answer to roadside questioning
without Miranda warnings were admissible. Here, the
circuit court rejected Cain's argument that he was
presumed to know the law because he cited no authority to
support his position, and it found that his statements were
admissible under Berkemer.
only relevant inquiry to determine whether a suspect was in
custody at a particular time is how a reasonable man in the
suspect's shoes would have understood his situation.
Hall v. State, 361 Ark. 379, 389, 206 S.W.3d 830,
837 (2005). Whether a suspect is in custody is "an
objective inquiry." J.D.B. v. North Carolina,
564 U.S. 261, 270 (2011) (citations and quotations omitted).
The initial determination of custody depends on objective
circumstances of the interrogation, not subjective views
harbored by the interrogating officers or the person being
interrogated. Hall, 361 Ark. at 389, 206 S.W.3d at
837. A Miranda warning is required only when a
suspect is subject to custodial interrogation. E.g.,
Hall, 361 Ark. at 388, 206 S.W.3d at 836. For
purposes of Miranda, a suspect is in custody when
there is "a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of
movement of the degree associated with formal arrest[,
]" such that a reasonable person would not have felt
free to leave. J.D.B., 564 U.S. at 270. To determine
whether freedom of movement has been restrained so as to
amount to custody, all of the circumstances must be
examined-including the location and duration of questioning,
the presence or absence of physical restraints during
questioning, the statements made, and the release of the
person when the questioning ends. E.g., Howes v.
Fields, 565 U.S.__, 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1189 (2012).
" for purposes of Miranda, "is a term of
art that specifies circumstances that are thought generally
to present a serious danger of coercion."
Howes, 132 S.Ct. at 1189; see also, e.g.,
Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98, 103 (2010)
(stating that Miranda's measures were adopted
out of concern for "incommunicado interrogation in an
unfamiliar, police-dominated atmosphere") (citation and
internal quotations omitted). "Determining whether an
individual's freedom of movement was curtailed . . . is
simply the first step in the analysis"; an additional
question is "whether the relevant environment presents
the same inherently coercive pressures as the type of station
house questioning at issue in Miranda."
Howes, 132 S.Ct. at 1190. Here, although Cain was
required to remain at the crash scene, see Ark. Code
Ann. § 27-53-101(b)(1) (Repl. 2010) (making it a felony
for a driver to leave the scene of an accident in which a
personal injury or death has occurred), such compulsion is
not akin to the restraint of a formal arrest. See,
e.g., Berkemer, 468 U.S. at 435-40 (holding
that a motorist detained for a routine traffic stop was not
in custody even though it was a crime to drive away without
permission); see also, e.g., In re A. N.C.
, 750 S.E.2d 835, 839-40 ( N.C. 2013) (holding that a
statutory requirement to remain on the scene was not
equivalent to formal arrest for purposes of
agree with the State that Cain was not entitled to a
Miranda warning before the investigating officer
asked him if he was the driver at the time of the crash and
if he had previously consumed alcohol or other intoxicants.
He was questioned in the initial investigation of a fatal
traffic accident while standing on the roadside, with other
people in public view. He was not restrained or detained, was
asked a minimal number of questions, and was allowed to leave
afterward. He was not questioned in an environment presenting
the inherently coercive, incommunicado pressures of
station-house questioning; nor was he in custody for purposes
of Miranda merely because of his legal obligation to
stay at the scene.
statements were not custodial, and Miranda warnings
were not necessary. We hold that the trial court did not
clearly err by denying his motion to suppress.
Abramson and ...