Justice Solomon continued in relevant part: The Appellate Division reversed, finding the State failed to prove defendant made a voluntary decision to waive his Miranda rights. 452 N.J. Super. 587, 590 (App. Div. 2018). The panel found that “the trial judge’s analysis improperly shifted the burden of proof to defendant to alert the interrogating officers about any difficulty he may be having understanding the ramifications of a legal waiver.” The panel also challenged the interrogation’s transcription. Additionally, a concurring opinion sets forth perceived “inherent constitutional flaws” in relying on police officers, rather than certified neutral translators, as interpreters during custodial interrogations. The Court granted the State’s petition for certification. 234 N.J. 192 (2018).
Although the better practice would have been to read aloud the form’s waiver portion to defendant, the Court relies on the trial court’s well-supported observations and factual findings and reverses the Appellate Division’s judgment. Generally, on appellate review, a trial court’s factual findings in support of granting or denying a motion to suppress must be upheld when those findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. In State v. S.S., 229 N.J. 360, 381 (2017), the Court extended that deferential standard of appellate review to “factual findings based on a video recording or documentary evidence” to ensure that New Jersey’s trial courts remain “the finder of the facts.
Decades after the Miranda decision, most suspects still waive their rights and make statements to the police. This is usually because they are not prepared for the ways that the police convince them to waive their rights. Common practices include telling suspects that it will not look good for them in court if they do not tell their story now and/or promising to release suspects after their statements if they talk. The reality is that a defendant’s silence is inadmissible in court and you are better off spending days or even months in jail waiting for your day in court than you are making a statement that could produce a conviction that keeps you locked up for years or decades.