Justice Fernandez-Vina continued: A few moments later, Detective Mera mentioned that they had charges against Vincenty. Vincenty then stated that he did not get a letter from a judge about the charges and asked the detectives what the charges were. The officers showed Vincenty a list of the charges and explained to Vincenty that he had been charged with attempted homicide, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Shortly thereafter, Vincenty told the detectives he wanted to talk to a lawyer and expressed concern that there were charges pending against him. The detectives continued questioning Vincenty, who again asked to speak with a lawyer and indicated that he was both surprised and confused. The detectives then acknowledged Vincenty’s desire to speak with a lawyer and stopped questioning him.
A grand jury indicted Vincenty, who then filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to Detectives Glackin and Mera. The State indicated that it would not seek to admit any statements Vincenty made after he first requested to speak with a lawyer, and the trial court found that, until Vincenty requested to speak with a lawyer, his statements were the result of a “knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights.”
Vincenty entered into a plea agreement with the State whereby he pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. An Appellate Division panel affirmed the trial court’s denial of Vincenty’s motion to suppress. The Court granted Vincenty’s petition for certification. 232 N.J. 278 (2018).
The record reveals that the detectives failed to inform Vincenty of the charges filed against him when they read him his rights and asked him to waive his right against self-incrimination. That failure deprived Vincenty of the ability to knowingly and intelligently waive his right against self-incrimination. Pursuant to A.G.D., Vincenty’s motion to suppress should have been granted.
The right against self-incrimination is one of the most important protections of the criminal law. Individuals, as holders of the right, may waive the right against self-incrimination. Law enforcement officers must first advise a suspect of the right against self-incrimination before attempting to obtain a waiver of the right. The State carries the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect’s waiver was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary in light of all the circumstances.
Note that the fact that the statements were illegally obtained does not mean that the case against the defendant has to be dismissed. It means that the statements and evidence derived from the statements must be dismissed. Here, the prosecution will still have the video evidence to use against the defendant.