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Miranda warning decision reversed; United States v. Powell

A fundamental principle of criminal law requires any law enforcement officer following an arrest to advise the arrested person of certain Constitutional rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona (Miranda warnings.) The police may not question the arrested person about the offense unless Miranda warnings have read to the defendant and those rights have been waived by the defendant. In United States v. Powell, the defendant claimed the arresting officers failed to read a Miranda warning and continued interrogation even though he requested counsel. The defendant filed a motion to suppress in which he sought relief by asking the judge to suppress the incriminating statements made after arrest from being admitted at trial.

The magistrate recommended granting the motion after disbelieving the two law enforcement officers’ account and believing instead the defendant and his stepfather’s account of what took place after arrest. Upon the Government’s objection to the report and recommendation, the district court reviewed the transcript and listened to a recording of the testimony, but did not hold a new hearing. The district court declined to adopt the magistrate’s findings. Later at trial, the defendant moved to reconsider that ruling but the district court denied the motion and gave the government an opportunity to supplement the record with testimony for the purpose of developing the record on appeal.

The appellate court reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress. It found the district court erred in reversing the magistrate without holding a separate hearing. It found the district court erred in rejecting the magistrate’s credibility determination without first rehearing the disputed testimony live and not the recording. The matter was remanded for the disputed testimony to be reheard. Taking evidence after ruling on the motion just to bolster the evidence in the record in preparation of the appeal was not sufficient.

The Swartz Law Firm focuses it practice on representing persons accused of federal criminal offenses and the protection of Constitutional rights. If you feel your Constitutional rights have been violated in any way, contact the attorneys at the Swartz Law Firm.