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Miranda Warnings Are Required Before Custodial Questioning By Police; But When Does Custody Occur?


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People v Yukl

Court of Appeals

25 N.Y2d 85

Decided on December 11, 1969

When a defendant is in custody he must be Mirandized before the police question him; but when, precisely, is someone in police custody? 

See also: The Indelible Right To Counsel: How Long Does It Last?

Summary: Defendant, notified the Police that he found the dead body of Miss Susan Reynolds. Police arrived at the scene and suggested that Defendant and his wife accompany them to the station house. Defendant was placed in a room, separated by his wife. Police noticed a stain on Defendants trousers. At the officer’s request, Defendant removed his trousers and jockey shorts. After several hours of questioning, without being Mirandized, Defendant confessed to the murder of Miss Reynolds. The Court found that custody occurs when the Police significantly impinge upon Defendant’s liberty. The Court held that the test for custody is “what any reasonable person, innocent of any crime, would have believed if they had been in Defendant’s position” The Police violated his free will to make a voluntary statement because they forced Defendant to speak when they took his trousers and jockey shorts, without the benefit of Miranda warnings.

Issue: Whether a Defendant was in Custody prior to receiving his Miranda warnings when he confessed to a murder.

Holding: The Court held that, the test for Custody is what a reasonable man, innocent of any crime, would have thought, had he been in the Defendant’s position. Hicks v United States, 127 U.S. App. D.C 209, 382 F.2d 158.

Facts: Defendant got into an argument with his student, Susan Reynolds. Reynolds was at his apartment when a fight the broke out. He chased her downstairs, killed her, and sodomized her, then called the Police to report that he found a body. When Police arrived they asked defendant and his wife to come to the station for questioning. Defendant was placed in a room, separated from his wife.

While questioning the Defendant, without Miranda warning, the Police noticed a stain on his pants and asked that he remove them. It was found that the DNA on his pants matched the victims DNA. Thereafter, Defendant confessed to the murder of Miss Reynolds without having received Miranda warnings.

Legal Analysis: The court held that the test for Custody is not determined by where the Defendant is and whether Police question him, rather, the test for custody is what a reasonable person, innocent of any crime, would have believed, had they been in Defendant’s position. The Court found a multitude of facts could constitute custody. The facts in this case were as follows: The police refused to allow Defendant to see his wife, The Police taking away his clothing, and interrogating him for several hours.. The Court held that when a Defendant is in custody he must be Mirandized in order for his statement to be admissible at trial.


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