State v. Watson, __ N.C. App. __, 792 S.E.2d 171 (2016)


In an attempted robbery case, the trial court did not err by denying the 16-year-old defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to a police officer outside the presence of his parent. After executing an arrest warrant, officers placed defendant in custody and transported him to a local precinct where he was interrogated by a police detective. Prior to interrogating defendant, the detective read defendant his Miranda and juvenile rights from a “Juvenile Waiver of Rights” form. The bottom of the form contained two separate checkboxes specifying either that the juvenile elected to answer questions: (1) in the presence of a lawyer, parent, guardian, or custodian, or (2) without a lawyer, parent, guardian, or custodian present. In the first checkbox, the detective filled in the name of defendant’s mother as the person who was present with defendant during the questioning. No blank spaces were filled in the second checkbox which contained the waiver of rights. The juvenile placed his initials beside each right listed on the form and next to the first checkbox, erroneously indicating that his mother was present. The appellate court found there was evidence to support the trial court’s findings of fact that defendant did not request the presence of his mother and that his initial beside the first checkbox was merely an error. These findings support the trial court’s conclusion that defendant did not invoke his right to have his mother present during questioning. The court also rejected defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the detective failed to clarify an ambiguous invocation of his statutory right to have a parent present, as required by State v. Saldierna, __ N.C. App. __, 775 S.E.2d 326, disc. review allowed, 368 N.C. 356 (2015). Because the Court of Appeals’ decision in Saldierna is currently pending review by the N.C. Supreme Court pursuant to the state’s petition for discretionary review, the issue is still unsettled. Moreover, the court found that Saldierna is inapplicable because defendant did not make a statement, ambiguous or otherwise, invoking his right to have a parent present in this case.

Motions to Suppress
Custodial Interrogation
Assertion of Rights
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