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State v. Griffin

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 2, 2017

STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLANT
v.
JAMES GRIFFIN, JR. APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NOS. 72CR-13-1127; 72CR-13-1136] HONORABLE MARK LINDSAY, JUDGE.

          Hodge Calhoun Giattina, PLLC, by: Robert E. Hodge III, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, Associate Justice.

         The State of Arkansas brings this interlocutory appeal from the Washington County Circuit Court's order granting appellee James Griffin, Jr.'s motion to suppress his statement to police. For reversal, the State argues that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-317(g) (Repl. 2015). We reverse and remand.

         On July 6, 2013, Griffin was arrested for robbing and assaulting a female in Fayetteville, Arkansas. At the time of his arrest, Griffin was sixteen years old and in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Griffin was initially transported to the Washington County Juvenile Detention Center but was transferred to the Washington County Detention Center on July 9, 2013, after he was formally charged as an adult with robbery and aggravated assault in case number 72CR-13-1127.

         Sergeant Rick Frisby and Detective Matt Ray with the Springdale Police Department interviewed Griffin on July 9, 2013, in connection with an assault of a female in Springdale on June 29, 2013. The officers read Griffin his Miranda rights, and Griffin signed a form indicating that he had waived his rights. During the interview, Griffin admitted entering the female's apartment in Springdale and rubbing her shoulders and legs and tickling her. While he did not rape her, Griffin admitted that before entering the apartment, he had planned to have sex with her. The day after his statement, on July 10, 2013, Griffin was charged as an adult in case number 72CR-13-1136 with residential burglary, sexual assault in the second degree, and aggravated assault.

         On April 1, 2016, Griffin filed a motion in both cases to suppress his July 9 statement to police, claiming that at the time of the interview, he was in DHS custody and unable to waive his right to counsel pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-317(g). Griffin also filed a motion to transfer his case to the juvenile division.[1] In an amended motion to suppress filed on May 26, 2016, Griffin alternatively argued that he did not "knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda rights due to his educational and mental levels." The State responded and asserted that section 9-27-317(g) was not applicable because Griffin had been charged as an adult.

         A suppression hearing was held on May 31, 2016, and the circuit court entered an order on June 1, 2016, granting Griffin's motion to suppress. The court found that Griffin could not waive his right to counsel because he was in DHS custody. The court noted that the officers conducting the interrogation did not know at that time whether Griffin would be charged as a juvenile or as an adult because Griffin was not charged as an adult in case number 72CR-13-1136 until the day after the interrogation. The circuit court thus found that all statements made by Griffin to the Springdale Police Department on July 9, 2013, were inadmissible in any prosecution. The State timely appealed the circuit court's order on June 9, 2016.

         As a preliminary matter, this court must first decide if it has jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal in this case. Unlike that of a criminal defendant, the State's right to appeal is limited to the provisions of Rule 3 of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure-Criminal. State v. Colvin, 2013 Ark. 203, 427 S.W.3d 635. Pursuant to Rule 3(a), an interlocutory appeal on behalf of the State may be taken from a pretrial order in a felony prosecution that suppresses a defendant's confession. In addition, we will not consider an appeal by the State unless the correct and uniform administration of the criminal law requires review by this court. Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 3(d). In practice, we review only State appeals that are narrow in scope and that involve the interpretation, not the application, of a criminal rule or statutory provision. State v. Jenkins, 2011 Ark. 2; State v. Pittman, 360 Ark. 273, 200 S.W.3d 893 (2005). State appeals that merely demonstrate that the circuit court erred are not permitted. Jenkins, supra.

         The issue presented in this appeal is whether the circuit court erred in its interpretation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-317(g). We have not previously addressed this particular subsection of the statute, and because this is an issue of first impression involving statutory interpretation that has widespread ramifications, jurisdiction of this appeal is properly in this court. See State v. L.P., 369 Ark. 21, 250 S.W.3d 248 (2007) (accepting State appeal involving interpretation of Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-317(h), (i)).

         Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-317 is titled, "Waiver of right to counsel- Detention of juvenile-Questioning, " and subsection (g) of this statute states that "[n]o waiver of the right to counsel shall be accepted when a juvenile is in the custody of the Department of Human Services, including the Division of Youth Services of the Department of Human Services." Because Griffin was in the custody of DHS when he waived his Miranda rights and gave his statement to the Springdale police, the circuit court found that section 9-27-317(g) barred the State from using Griffin's statement against him, despite the fact that he had been charged as an adult in circuit court for the offenses.

         We agree with the State that the circuit court erred in granting the motion to suppress on this basis. In Boyd v. State, 313 Ark. 171, 853 S.W.2d 263 (1993), we interpreted section 9-27-317 and held that the statutory requirement of parental consent to a juvenile's waiver of the right to counsel applies only to proceedings in juvenile court. Because the juvenile in that case was charged as an adult in circuit court, we affirmed the circuit court's denial of the motion to suppress the defendant's confession, stating that "when the prosecutor chooses to prosecute a juvenile in circuit court as an adult, the juvenile becomes subject to the procedures and penalties prescribed for adults." Id. at 172-73, 852 S.W.2d at 264.

         We reaffirmed this holding in Ring v. State, 320 Ark. 128, 894 S.W.2d 944 (1995), wherein the juvenile argued that he had not yet been charged as an adult at the time he gave his confession and that section 9-27-317 therefore applied to him and prevented the admissibility of his confession at a hearing on his motion to transfer his case to juvenile court. Relying on Boyd, we held that because the appellant in Ring "was ultimately charged in circuit court and, upon this court's affirmance of the denial of his motion to transfer, will ultimately be tried there, the failure of the law enforcement officers to obtain the consent of ...


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