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People v. Snow





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lee County; the Hon. THOMAS E. HORNSBY, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal by the State pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110A, par. 604(a)(1)) from an order of the trial court suppressing certain statements made by the defendant on the ground that defendant was not advised of his constitutional rights in accord with Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 86 S.Ct. 1602, prior to making the statements. The inculpatory statements were made to a security officer at the Dixon State School where defendant had been employed. The sole question presented is whether defendant should have been given the Miranda warnings prior to the making of the statements.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the following facts appeared. On December 3, 1973, personnel at the Dixon State School reported that they had observed bruises and lacerations on the leg of a blind and mute individual who resided at the school. One Roger Hoffman, director of Unit #10, the unit where the incident occurred, and one Bobby L. Jones, acting chief security officer for the school, initiated an inquiry. A number of employees were questioned about the incident, including the defendant, Robert Snow, a mental health trainee who worked at the cottage in which the injured individual resided. Pending the outcome of the investigation, defendant was relieved of his duties at the school. On December 3 defendant was interviewed by Jones and Hoffman at the Unit #10 office, which is located within a training center building on the school grounds and which measures approximately 15 by 20 feet in size with windows which look out on the exterior of the building. At this interview defendant indicated that he had no knowledge of the cause of the injuries under investigation but he appeared nervous and upset. Pursuant to directions given by one David Edelson, Superintendent of the Dixon State School, defendant was again questioned by Jones and Hoffman in the Unit #10 office on December 12. During the course of the interview defendant stated that he was involved and signed a statement to that effect. At neither the December 3 nor the December 12 interview was the defendant given any of the Miranda warnings.

Five days later, on December 17, 1973, Jones reported his findings to Detective Sergeant Hagen of the Dixon Police Department. Detective Hagen arrested defendant, took him into custody and gave defendant the Miranda warnings. Thereafter, on December 17, defendant admitted orally and in writing that he had struck the resident. On January 29, 1974, defendant was indicted for aggravated battery.

Jones' functions as Security Officer IV, which, it was stipulated, is acting chief of security, included the duty of supervising the activities of security officers in law enforcement, investigating theft, abuse, accidents or unusual occurrences and reporting his information to local law enforcement personnel. He wears a "police type" uniform and a badge imprinted with the words "Security Service, Department of Mental Health." In addition, Jones is a deputy sheriff of Lee County, although the sheriff who deputized him died prior to December 3 and Jones was not deputized by the new sheriff until December 17, 1973.

Following the conclusion of the hearing on the motion to suppress, the trial court entered its order suppressing all statements made by defendant in his interviews with Jones and Hoffman on December 3 and December 12 because defendant was not given the Miranda warnings, and suppressing the statements made by defendant on December 17 to Detective Hagen because they were "fruit of the poisonous tree." In its findings of fact, the trial court found that, although Jones was a deputy sheriff of Lee County, he "* * * was not acting in that capacity during any interrogation of the defendant." The trial court further found that at the December 12 interview, "* * * defendant was under no physical restraint * * * and was free to leave at any time." Among its conclusions of law, the trial court ruled that, for purposes of determining whether the Miranda warnings were applicable, Jones was a law enforcement officer because "[h]e personally investigates criminal activity and is required to relay his findings to local law enforcement officials." Additionally, the trial court states:

"If the State of Illinois or any other branch of government has deemed it necessary to authorize an employee to engage in law enforcement activities on its property, then it must be held to the same standards as are required of other law enforcement officials * * *."

The trial court found that the questioning of defendant amounted to custodial interrogation for the following reasons:

"Defendant was interrogated on 12/12/73 in an office under the control of the interrogator, Mr. Jones. His presence was required by his employer. The investigation obviously had focused in on the defendant at that time. He had previously been suspended. Certainly, he was placed in an incommunicado situation and deprived of a free and rational decision by those not acting solely in his interest."

It is the People's contention that the trial court erred in making its suppression order because Jones was not required to give defendant the Miranda warnings. The Miranda warnings must be given before law enforcement officers may initiate custodial interrogation on pain of suppression of statements made in violation thereof. In Miranda, the Supreme Court denied "custodial interrogation" as "* * * questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." (384 U.S. 436, 444, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 706, 86 S.Ct. 1602.) It is argued by the People that under the circumstances of this case, for Miranda purposes, Jones was not a "law enforcement officer" and, or assuming that he were a law enforcement officer, in the alternative, that the statements were not made during "custodial interrogation." We agree with the People's second alternative argument that assuming Jones was a law enforcement officer within the purview of the Miranda decision the questioning of the defendant by Jones and Hoffman was non-custodial in nature and, as a result, the Miranda warnings need not have been given to defendant. Accordingly, we reverse the order of suppression and remand the case. In light of this result, we find it unnecessary to expound upon the issue of whether Jones should be viewed as a law enforcement officer for Miranda purposes. Our discussion will thus be focused upon the issue of "custodial interrogation," the question being whether defendant was "taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way."

• 1 An examination of the Supreme Court opinion in Miranda reveals that the Court was concerned with the problem of admitting into evidence statements which an individual made pursuant to questioning by law enforcement officers in situations in which an inquiry had focused upon the individual, the individual was held incommunicado in a police dominated or otherwise unfamiliar atmosphere, and, as a result, the danger existed that the statements were the product of physical or psychological coercion rather than of free will. The Court made it clear that where the statement is either volunteered (see also People v. Howell (1970), 44 Ill.2d 264, 255 N.E.2d 435) or made pursuant to general on-the-scene investigation as to the facts surrounding a crime (see also People v. Parks (1971), 48 Ill.2d 232, 269 N.E.2d 484) Miranda is inapplicable. The difficult question presented in this, and in numerous other cases which have considered the issue, is drawing the line between investigative and custodial questioning.

• 2 While it is clear that each case must turn upon its particular factual setting, several factors which have been considered by the courts in resolving the issue are relevant in the present case. In People v. Dunn (1975), 31 Ill. App.3d 854, 860, 334 N.E.2d 866, 871, the court noted that the following factors were relevant in making the distinction:

"The line distinguishing between investigation and custodial interrogation is often difficult to draw, but generally, the exception to Miranda warning applies where there has been a complete absence of the element of coercion, actual or potential, or police dominance of the individual's will. (People v. Helm, 10 Ill. App.3d 643, 295 N.E.2d 78; United States v. Gibson (4th Cir. 1968), 392 F.2d 373.) A proper analysis should consider the amount of knowledge possessed by the police at the time of the interrogation, the tone and method of questioning, and who, if anyone, was the focus of the investigation at the time of the interrogation. People v. Bailey, 15 Ill. App.3d 558, 304 N.E.2d 668."

In People v. Helm (1973), 10 Ill. App.3d 643, 648, 295 N.E.2d 78, 82, the court cited Lowe v. United States (9th Cir. 1969), 407 F.2d 1391, with approval for the proposition that the following objective standard should be used in ...

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