In re Interest of Miah S.

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In re Interest of Miah S.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Friday, April 3, 2015

Summary: The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Separate Douglas County Juvenile Court that Miah’s statements to the police on November 19, 2013 were freely, knowingly and voluntarily given. Miah was originally advised of his Miranda rights on November 18, 2013, and the validity of that initial waiver was not on issue on appeal. The only issue on appeal was “whether the Miranda warnings given the previous day were still fresh such that Miah could voluntarily and knowingly waive his rights.” The Supreme Court ruled that since the second interrogation was less than 24 hours after the first, the detective asked Miah if he remembered his Miranda warnings, the second interrogation occurred at his home with his mother present, and was about related crimes, the original Miranda waiver was still valid.

On November 18, 2013, fourteen year old Miah S., was arrested with four other individuals for burglary. Miah was brought to police headquarters and interviewed by two detectives about the incident. The initial interrogation lasted 45 minutes to an hour and his mother was not present. The detectives read Miah the standard Omaha Police Department rights advisory form. Miah was booked on charges burglary and released to his home on electronic monitor.

The following day, two detectives, went to Miah’s home, to question him about other related burglaries. One of the detectives who went to Miah’s home was also present at the first interrogation. The Supreme Court noted that this second interrogation “occurred in a much less intimidating environment than the initial interrogation.” Miah’s mother was present, though the detectives and the mother’s account of the conversation varies. The trial court relied on the testimony of the detectives and the Supreme Court did not find clear error to reverse that finding. The detectives indicated that they reminded Miah that his Miranda rights still applied and that he acknowledged that he was aware of that. Miah then went with the detectives in their car and gave several incriminating statements. He was then charged with seven additional counts of burglary. At trial, Miah’s attorney filed a motion to suppress Miah’s statements given on November 19, 2013.

In its analysis, Nebraska’s Supreme Court noted the special case of interrogations involving children necessitating evaluation of the juvenile’s age and capacity to understand Miranda warnings. The Court cited its previous decision in State v. Goodwin, 278 Neb. 945, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, and research showing that many fourteen year olds are not able to adequately comprehend the warnings in order to provide a meaningful waiver. However, the Court found the record lacked information about Miah’s intelligence level and more importantly, noted that Miah did not challenge the initial waiver, but only the time lapse between the first and second interrogation. In determining whether the time lapse rendered the first waiver stale, the Court must look at the totality of the circumstances. The Court weighed Miah’s age and inexperience with law enforcement against the day time lapse between the two interrogations. The Court found that 24 hours was not excessive and also that the Miranda reminder given by the detectives coupled with the location of the second interrogation weighed in favor of the State. Additionally, the crimes were related and one of the detectives was present at both interrogations. Accordingly, the Separate Juvenile Court’s order overruling Miah’s motion to suppress was affirmed.