Physical evidence admissible despite Miranda violations.


Byline: Barry Bridges

A Rhode Island Supreme Court holding that physical evidence obtained pursuant to a defendant's voluntary but un-Mirandized statements is nevertheless admissible is being viewed by criminal defense attorneys as a step in the wrong direction.

The case involved Sendra Beauregard's appeal of her 2015 murder conviction, with her main contention being that since her incriminating statements to Providence police were suppressed as violations of Miranda, the trial judge also should have excluded a recovered firearm and ammunition as fruit of the poisonous tree.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

Writing for the court, Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia said Rhode Island's jurisprudence dictates strict compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in United States v. Patane, with no broader construction.

Patane, decided in 2004, stands for the proposition that physical evidence obtained through a suspect's un-Mirandized but voluntary statements does not have to be excluded.

Indeglia said the court was unmoved by the fact that other states have extended protections for the accused through their state constitutions.

For example, unlike the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which has expanded rights against self-incrimination under the state's constitution, Indeglia said he and his fellow justices remained "mindful of [Rhode Island's] consistent adherence to the Supreme Court's analysis of the Fifth Amendment" when interpreting the self-incrimination provision in Article 1, Section 13, of its own constitution.

"We adopt the protections announced in Patane and consequently hold that Miranda violations do not taint the admissibility of physical evidence that is the product of an unwarned and inadmissible statement, so long as that statement is voluntary," Indeglia wrote.

The 27-page decision is State v. Beauregard, Lawyers Weekly No. 60-103-18. The full text of the ruling can be found here.

Erosion of 'Miranda'?

Providence criminal defense attorney Peter A. DiBiase said Beauregard is contrary to the underlying principle of Miranda: to provide fairness to suspects during custodial interrogations.

"Over time there has been a series of Rhode Island holdings eroding principles from Miranda, such as on issues of what constitutes custody or voluntary statements. This is a continuation of that," DiBiase said.

Defense lawyer Jodi M. Gladstone agreed.

"This holding lowers the protections against an unrestrained government," said the Cranston...

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