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State v. Heinonen

Supreme Court of Minnesota

March 28, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Erik John Heinonen, Appellant.

          Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Kathleen A. Heaney, Sherburne County Attorney, Tim Sime, Assistant County Attorney, Elk River, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Benjamin J. Butler, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Cort C. Holten, Jeffrey D. Bores, Gary K. Luloff, Chestnut Cambronne PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Legal Defense Fund.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The officers' nonaccusatory request for written consent to take a DNA sample, and the officers' honest answer to arrestee's question about why a DNA sample was being sought, were not the functional equivalent of an interrogation because the conduct is not reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating testimonial communication.

         2. The officers' nonaccusatory request for written consent to take a DNA sample was not an interrogation because consenting to a search is not an incriminating testimonial communication that triggers the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

         3. The officers' nonaccusatory request for written consent to take a DNA sample was not an interrogation because providing a DNA sample for identification purposes is not an incriminating testimonial communication that triggers the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          CHUTICH, Justice.

         This case requires us to decide whether police officers violated an arrestee's Fifth Amendment right when, after the arrestee invoked his privilege against self-incrimination, the officers later asked him if he was willing to sign a written consent to the taking of a DNA sample and explained to him, when questioned, why they sought the sample. Appellant Erik Heinonen moved to suppress the DNA results, as well as the incriminating statements that he made when officers were taking the DNA sample. The district court denied the motion.

         Following a jury trial, Heinonen was convicted of two weapons-related offenses, and the court of appeals affirmed. He contends that the officers conducted a second custodial interrogation of him, and therefore did not scrupulously honor his right to remain silent, by (1) requesting his consent to take a DNA sample and (2) explaining to him, when questioned, why they sought the sample. We conclude that the officers did not violate Heinonen's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Although Heinonen's statements that he had already handled the shotgun were incriminating testimonial communications, none of the officers' actions were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating testimonial communication. And although the officers' request may have been reasonably likely to prompt a suspect to give consent and provide a DNA sample, neither consenting to give a DNA sample nor providing the sample is an incriminating testimonial communication that triggers the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Accordingly, a warning under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was not required and suppression of evidence is not justified. We therefore affirm.

         FACTS

         In June 2015, law enforcement officers with the Sherburne County Drug Task Force executed a warrant to search a house in Sherburne County. When the officers entered the home, they found Heinonen and two other occupants. In the closet of an upstairs bedroom, the officers discovered a short-barreled shotgun underneath men's clothing. A plastic case with shotgun shells was sitting on the bed, next to a shoebox. The shoebox contained mail that was addressed to Heinonen at the house being searched. Heinonen, a convicted felon, was not permitted to possess a firearm, and the shotgun's barrel length made it too short for anyone to legally possess in Minnesota.

         Investigator Sturm asked Heinonen to come out to a squad car to talk. Sturm read Heinonen the warning required by Miranda v. Arizona, 394 U.S. 436 (1966).[1] Heinonen declined to speak with Sturm. Sturm understood that Heinonen was invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and Sturm ended the interrogation. Heinonen did not invoke his right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment.[2] Although Sturm allowed Heinonen to return to the house for a brief time, Heinonen was ultimately arrested and taken to the local jail.

         Sturm and his supervisor, Sergeant McLean, approached Heinonen approximately two hours later at the jail. Sturm asked Heinonen if he would sign a written consent to provide a DNA sample. The officers read Heinonen the consent form and then Heinonen signed it. The form contained information about Heinonen's "rights not to have a search made without a search warrant" and his "right to refuse to consent to such a search, " but no information regarding Heinonen's privilege against self-incrimination or his right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment. The officers did not reread a Miranda warning.

         McLean took the DNA sample from Heinonen using two mouth swabs. While McLean was taking the swabs, Heinonen asked why the officers were taking a DNA sample. McLean replied that they were taking a sample to compare it to DNA found on the shotgun. In response, Heinonen told the officers that "he had already handled the gun." A forensic scientist later determined that Heinonen's DNA profile was consistent with the ...


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