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An illegal arrest doesn’t automatically throw out a confession

Facts

Samantha, who was 11 or 12 years old, told a friend that Ryan Catledge, her 20 year old step brother, had been having sex with her. The police learned of this and went to the home to speak with Samantha’s mother. They were speaking outside when Catledge emerged from the house.

Police were surprised as they did not think he was living there. Concerned that the victim was in further danger, they took Catledge to the county jail for an “investigative hold,” which they believed department policy allowed for a period of seventy-two hours. There was no warrant to arrest Catledge and it is not clear from police testimony whether, at that time, they had probable cause to do so.

Consequently, the State does not defend Catledge’s detention as a legal arrest. He confessed while in jail and was then convicted of statutory rape and sentenced to 20 years. On appeal, he argues the confession should be suppressed. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

The MSC addressed this issue in Hall v. State, 427 So. 2d 957, (Miss. 1983) where they looked to a U.S. Supreme Court case (Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975)) for guidance. In Brown, the defendant was arrested without probable cause or a warrant and then made a confession. The question whether a confession is the product of a free will must be answered on the facts of each case.

First, Brown recognizes that the Miranda warnings are an important factor to be sure, in determining whether the confession is obtained by exploitation of an illegal arrest. Other Brown factors which ought to be considered are (1) the temporal proximity of the arrest and the confession; (2) the presence of intervening circumstances; (3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct, i.e., the making of the illegal arrest; and (4) any other circumstances that seem relevant.

In our case, Catledge executed a written Miranda waiver before the interrogation began. A large amount of time – more than four days – passed between Catledge’s initial detention and his interrogation, during which time Catledge, although held in the county jail, could communicate with the outside world.

The extended detention cuts both ways, however, as it was in violation of Rule 6.03 of the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice, which requires the initial appearance to occur within 48 hours. But violation of Rule 6.03 also does not necessarily require suppression of a confession, even when the confession occurs outside of the 48-hour period. Click here for more on the 48 hour rule.

It is true that the authorities continued to gather evidence against Catledge after his arrest, but the evidence did not stem from the illegal arrest. Likewise, the investigators admitted that they intended to speak with Catledge before his initial appearance (because he would not have a lawyer), but this was not the reason for the delay, nor was Catledge’s detention extended for some other tactical advantage.

Instead, it seems to have resulted from a misunderstanding of the law and from the coincidence that much of Catledge’s time in the jail occurred over a weekend, which the investigators believed did not “count” toward the time allowed. By all indications, if the authorities had recognized the 48 hour rule, they would have interrogated Catledge sooner and obtained the same result.

There also appears to be no doubt that, at the latest, the authorities had probable cause to have made a legal arrest a short time after Catledge was detained and that the probable cause did not stem from the detention itself. Nor was the confession obtained “by exploitation of the illegal detention.”

Finally, we note that Deputy Margie Bell testified that she removed Catledge from the scene to protect the victim. She did not attempt to interrogate Catledge at that time or otherwise exploit his illegal arrest to gather evidence. We do not consider Bell’s purpose exploitive or her conduct particularly flagrant.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO101838.pdf