NJ Supreme Court to Clarify What Constitutes Custodial Interrogation Requiring Miranda Warnings

NJ Supreme Court to Clarify What Constitutes Custodial Interrogation Requiring Miranda Warnings

The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently granted certification in State v. Keogh. The case involves the distinction between investigative questioning and custodial interrogation for the purposes of determining whether a Miranda warning is required.

Facts of the Case

At approximately 7:36 p.m., the Bound Brook Police Department was dispatched to the home of Cindy and David Keogh on a report of “shots fired” at an intruder on the property with one person injured. Cindy, who had called 9-1-1, was standing at the edge of the driveway when officers arrived. Cindy said a family friend who had lived with the Keoghs at a point in the past was shot outside the carriage house behind the main residence.

When David Keogh emerged with his son, Ryan, the family was directed by police to remain in the driveway. At one point, Cindy was denied permission to enter the home to get a boat. Officers also advised the family to remain silent and not to converse with each other. The authorities promptly applied for search warrants for the main house, the carriage house, and three vehicles on the premises used by defendants. Police transported the Keoghs to headquarters in separate police vehicles to be interviewed and provide statements, since the interviews could not be conducted in the residence, and defendants were not permitted to use their cars.

Cindy and David were separated at the police station and interviewed by investigators. Ryan was separately interviewed last after he was given Miranda warnings. Because their interviews were over, officers told Cindy and David “if they would like to leave, they were free to leave.” They wished to stay, however, pending further information about their son.

After further investigation, and more than one month later, on February 13, 2019, Ryan was charged with murder. Cindy and David were both charged the following day. The charges — hindering apprehension, endangering an injured victim, and multiple counts of false swearing — are premised on their alleged conduct and statements they made to law enforcement following the shooting.

Cindy and David sought to suppress their recorded statements to law enforcement officers made on the evening of the shooting based on the fact that they were not given Miranda warnings. The trial judge agreed, concluding that they “were in custody for the purposes of Miranda.” The judge found the couple “never left the line of sight of the officers and were subject to numerous commands . . . that left them no other option but to comply with these commands.” The judge further found defendants were driven to police headquarters, were unable to “drive their own vehicles or report to the police station at another time.” He noted although “the Keoghs were free to leave after they gave their statements[,] . . . they were still subject to further police supervision because the police were executing a search warrant on their residence[,] and they could not enter their home.”

Appellate Division’s Decision

The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that Cindy and David were neither in custody nor interrogated and, therefore, Miranda did not apply. According to the court, the trial judge gave unwarranted legal significance to the interaction between defendants and police at the scene of the homicide, as well as to their separation on the way to and at police headquarters. The appeals court further noted that Cindy and David were affirmatively told they were free to leave after providing their statements, but both chose to stay until Ryan had completed his statement. In also finding that Cindy and David were not subject to “interrogation,” the Appellate Division emphasized that “video recordings of the actual statements made by Cindy and David show the interviews were clearly conversational, non-confrontational and investigative in nature.”

Issues Before the NJ Supreme Court

The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to consider the following question: “Were defendants subjected to custodial interrogation when they were interviewed by the detectives such that they should have been given Miranda warnings?”

Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. Please check back for updates.

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