State v. Burris, ___ N.C. App. ___, 799 S.E.2d 452 (May. 16, 2017)

In this impaired driving case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress self-incriminating statements made without Miranda warnings, finding that the defendant was not in custody at the time. The standard for determining whether an individual is in custody for purposes of Miranda is, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether there was a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement to a degree associated with a formal arrest. In this case, the defendant argued that when the detective retained his drivers license he was seized, not free to leave, and thus entitled to Miranda warnings. The court found that the defendant had erroneously conflated the Miranda custody standard with the standard for a seizure. Noting that the defendant was not under formal arrest at the time he was questioned, the court determined that under the totality of the circumstances the defendant’s movement was not restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest. The court noted that the inquiry is an objective one, not a subjective one. Here, the defendant was standing outside of his own vehicle while speaking with the detective. He was not told he was under arrest or handcuffed, and other than his license being retained, his movement was not stopped or limited further. No mention of any possible suspicion of the defendant being involved in criminal activity, impaired driving or otherwise, had yet been made. A reasonable person in these circumstances would not have believed that he was under arrest at the time.