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In re Welfare of M.A.K.

August 19, 2003

IN THE MATTER OF THE WELFARE OF: M.A.K., CHILD.


St. Louis County District Court File No. J2-01-651492

Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

An in-school interview between police and a juvenile can be construed as custodial if the juvenile is not told he is free to leave or to refuse to answer questions; is not told he can contact his parents; is brought to the examining room by people affiliated with the school administration (rather than asked if he would like to come); and is not given a pass back to class until police are satisfied with his statements. If a Miranda warning is not given, and the statements are not made voluntarily, it is error to admit those statements as evidence.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randall, Judge

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

OPINION

Appellant M.A.K. challenges the district court's refusal to suppress the self-incriminatory statements he made to police during an in-school interview. Appellant asks this court to reverse the finding that he committed third-degree burglary and the subsequent adjudication of delinquency.

FACTS

On July 31, 2001, police received a report that fourteen-year-old M.A.K. had taken his stepfather's car without permission, had driven it without a license, and had been in an accident. M.A.K.'s stepfather made the police report based on a message from M.A.K.'s father, with whom M.A.K. had spent the night. On October 10, police officer Janine Pauly and a police intern went to M.A.K.'s school to speak with him about the incident. Although police had the permission of M.A.K.'s stepfather to interview him, they had not spoken with either of his biological parents. M.A.K. was taken from his classroom to the school police liaison office. He was told that he was not under arrest and that his stepfather had given his permission for the interview. M.A.K. was not told that he did not have to talk to police or answer questions and was not given a Miranda warning. During the interview, M.A.K. admitted that he had taken the car without permission or a license and that he had crashed it. At no time during the interview did M.A.K. ask to leave or to speak with a parent. At the end of the interview, M.A.K. filled out a written statement regarding the incident and was given a hall pass to return to class.

On October 29, police once again went to interview M.A.K. at his school. This time, they were investigating reports that M.A.K. had been involved in burglarizing at least one garage with some other boys. Although police had attempted to contact M.A.K.'s mother, they had not actually spoken with any of his parents before interviewing him. During the interview, M.A.K. admitted that he had been present at the scene of one burglary and that the other boys had taken some beer from a garage.

Juvenile delinquency petitions were filed charging M.A.K. with one count of taking a motor vehicle, one count of driving without a license, and one count of third-degree burglary. At contested Rasmussen hearings, M.A.K. moved to suppress the statements he made to police during both the in-school interviews as having been made in custody, without a proper Miranda warning, and involuntarily. These motions were denied after the officers involved in the interviews testified that M.A.K. had been calm and had willingly answered questions. The officers classified the interviews as non-custodial. M.A.K. testified that he had not thought he was free to leave and that he felt he had to answer all of the officers' questions. Both matters proceeded to trial.

A burglary trial was held July 15, 2002. Officer Kelly Greenwalt testified that she had interviewed M.A.K. regarding a garage burglary. Greenwalt testified that M.A.K. told her he had gone "into" the garage with the other boys and had taken three six-packs of beer from a refrigerator inside. One of M.A.K.'s friends also testified that M.A.K. had gone into the garage and had taken the beer. M.A.K. testified that he told Greenwalt he went "to" the garage, not "into" it, and that he had only carried the beer after the other boys brought it out. The court found that M.A.K. committed third-degree burglary by order dated July 15, 2002.

On November 13, a trial was held on the charges of auto-theft and driving without a license. M.A.K.'s stepfather testified that he received a call from his wife (M.A.K.'s mother) while he was at work, telling him that M.A.K. had taken the car and crashed it and had spent the night at his father's house. M.A.K.'s mother learned this information from a message M.A.K.'s father left on her answering machine. When his stepfather confronted him later, M.A.K. admitted that he had crashed the car. M.A.K.'s stepfather also revealed that M.A.K. had taken the car without permission on two other occasions. Officer Janine Pauly also testified that, during the in-school interview, M.A.K. admitted he took the car.

The court found that the evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that M.A.K. had taken the car without permission and had driven it without a license. A dispositional hearing was held immediately for both cases. M.A.K.'s probation officer recommended that he be adjudicated delinquent on both the burglary charge and the auto-theft charge, that he serve nine months of probation, that he be ordered to ...


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