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Coercion – Fairfax criminal lawyer on its Fifth Amendment role

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Coercion - Fairfax criminal lawyer on its Fifth Amendment role - Image of paper with word coerciion

Coercion is important to argue for suppressing a suspect’s words, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Coercion by police is among the first things I look for as a Fairfax criminal lawyer pursuing the suppression of my client’s statements to law enforcement. In 1986, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a Fifth Amendment or Miranda violation does not take place without police coercion, but left it up to the states whether to grant Fifth Amendment relief even without coercive activity. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986).

In an unpublished ruling this week, a three-judge Virginia Court of Appeals panel determined that without coercion, a Fifth Amendment or Miranda violation does not take place. Here, Capps was arrested for alleged shoplifting. The police officer ultimately advised Capps of his Miranda right to remain silent and to obtain a lawyer. As police read Capps his Miranda rights, Capps kept interjecting “Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep.” Capps v. Commonwealth of Virginia, Record No. 0500-19-1 (Aug. 20, 2019).

Fairfax criminal lawyer on trial judge’s suppressing Capps’s statements

Police testified that Capps was highly intoxicated on the incident date. The Circuit Court judge found “‘based on the totality of the circumstances … ‘these were not the actions of someone’s who’s rational and that the statements that he made were statements that were not made by someone who was rational with rational intellect or free will.’ Thus, the statements were involuntary and inadmissible.’” Capps. On appeal, prosecutors focused the on absence of coercion, as discussed below:

Capps says coercion is needed before obtaining Fifth Amendment and Miranda relief.

In reversing the trial judge in this coercion case, Capps says:

“Instead, the test for whether a confession can be considered voluntary is the same test found in Yarborough… with the additional requirement that there be some evidence of [coercion]. ‘“The test for voluntariness is whether the statement is the ‘product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice by its maker’…” Capps.

Even though Capps is unpublished, I expect this coercion case to influence Virginia judges addressing the same issue, so an en banc petition or appeal makes sense.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, and DUI prosecutions. To discuss your case in confidence with Jon Katz, please call his staff for an appointment at 703-383-1100.