Limited English Miranda Rights Waivers (Part 2)

by | May 14, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Legal Procedures, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Court continued in relevant part: During the course of the interrogation that followed, defendant admitted to touching his step-granddaughter inappropriately. A grand jury indicted defendant for multiple counts of sexual assault and for endangering the welfare of a child.

Defendant challenged the admission of his statement to police and Detective Ramos’s translation of the interview.  At the hearing on defendant’s suppression motion, Detective Ramos testified that defendant “took his time reading the form. It appears to him that defendant did read it.” Detective Ramos acknowledged that he did not ask any questions to determine defendant’s educational background or literacy level. He also testified about discrepancies between the video recording and the transcript of defendant’s statement and explained that he was “paraphrasing” defendant’s answers.

After watching the DVD of defendant’s interview, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that “defendant appeared calm during the interview, appeared to understand the questions posed to him in both English and Spanish, and was able to answer the questions forthrightly.” The court also explained that defendant seemed “alert and cognizant” while the form was explained to him and that “it was clear from the video tape that defendant was given an opportunity to read the waiver paragraph and signed the waiver portion, and did in fact review the waiver portion before signing it.”  Finally, referring to defendant’s expressed preference that the interview be conducted in Spanish, the court added that, “if defendant had any problem reading the waiver portion of the form, written in Spanish as he had requested, it is clear to this court that he would have voiced such difficulty.” The court concluded that, considering the totality of the circumstances, defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. Defendant pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault while reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

The prosecution is required to prove the knowing and voluntary waiver of Miranda rights beyond a reasonable doubt before a defendant’s custodial statements can be admitted into evidence. In theory, this is a significant protection against the admission of coerced confessions. In practice, most judges do not wish to throw out evidence that makes or breaks a case after being confronted with the defendant’s own admissions. What judges do not see is the unrecorded conduct that preceded the defendant’s recorded statement.