In the Matter of D.A.C., 225 N.C. App. 547 (2013)


A 14-year-old juvenile was not “in custody” when officers questioned him in his backyard with his parents nearby inside the house. Law enforcement officers saw the juvenile standing across the street from a home into which shots had been fired. When asked, the juvenile denied shooting at the house. Officers spoke with the juvenile’s parents and then asked the juvenile if he would speak with them. A plain-clothes detective and uniformed officer spoke with the juvenile outside his house for about five minutes. The parents were invited to join them but stayed in the house and told the juvenile to talk to the officers and “tell the truth.” The juvenile admitted shooting at the house. The officers did not give the juvenile a Miranda warning. The juvenile was charged with damaging both personal and real property. The trial court denied the juvenile’s motion to suppress his oral statements. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court’s findings supported the conclusion that the juvenile was not in custody when he made the statements. Facts the court considered included that the juvenile was 14; the officers asked whether he would talk with them and did not say he had to; the questioning occurred outdoors at the juvenile’s home during the day; the juvenile’s parents were nearby and could have gone outside with the juvenile; the officers talked with the juvenile for only about five minutes; the officers stood arms-length from the juvenile and made no move to touch him; and there was no physical restraint or indication of coercion. Facts that did not suffice to render the juvenile “in custody” included that: the juvenile was very much a suspect in the shooting; his parents told him to talk to the officers and “tell the truth”; and the officers were armed and one was in uniform. The court rejected the notion that fact that the juvenile’s parents told him to be honest with the officers compelled a different conclusion.

Motions to Suppress
Custodial Interrogation
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