CUSTODIAL INTERROGATION: RECENT COURT OF APPEALS DECISION

The Court of Appeals in Toler v. U.S., decided recently determined whether revealing of a social security number during a custodial interrogation was in violation of Miranda rights.

Appellant Toler had argued that his firearm convictions must be reversed because he was required to reveal his social security number without a prior  Miranda warning, and also that his convictions for possession of unregistered firearms must be reversed because the government failed to prove an element of the offense, namely that the firearms were not “antique” firearms.

In general, routine questions related to the booking process are not considered interrogation under Miranda, for such questions are not normally likely to elicit incriminating answers.

Thus questions regarding the name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and age of the suspect all fall within the booking data or biographical information as the questions regarding appellant’s name, phone number, and social security number were not likely to elicit incriminating information.

Moreover, the MPD’s booking forms request a social security number, among other information.  Thus unless the eliciting of the social security number would be inculpatory or would be considered an admission or incriminating disclosure – such may be routinely asked and obtained without Miranda violation.

Therefore, asking an individual who had been arrested on drug charges a question about drug use or a suspect in a statutory rape case about his date of birth or in a tax fraud case a social security number – all will be in violation of Miranda as disclosure would be incriminating.

The questions in these cases were closely tied to elements of the crimes in question whereas the in the present case a social security number is not an element, or even related to an element, of any of the offenses in which Toler was convicted of.

The licensing of the firearm Statute in DC makes an exception “antique firearm” – and here Toler argued on appeal that the government was duty bound to prove his weapon was not antique.  The Court disagreed.

In DC firearm is defined as: any weapon, regardless of operability, which will, or is designed or redesigned, made or remade, readily converted, restored, or repaired, or is intended to, expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such device; or any firearm muffler or silencer; provided, that such term shall not include: (A) Antique firearms . . . .

Specifically, the Court of Appeals consistent with Federal precedent held that the government need not prove that a firearm was not an antique rather the antique nature of a firearm is an affirmative defense to be argued by the defense and for the government to rebut by a reasonable doubt.

Here, there was no evidence that appellant’s firearms were antique and the appellant had not proffer any in support of such a defense.

Refer to our DC Criminal Lawyer page for more information on this topic.

Categories: Criminal Defense.