In re State In Interest of A.A., 081793

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtCHIEF JUSTICE RABNER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation240 N.J. 341,222 A.3d 681
Decision Date15 January 2020
Docket Number081793,A-50 September Term 2018
Parties STATE of New Jersey IN the INTEREST OF A.A., Juvenile.

240 N.J. 341
222 A.3d 681

STATE of New Jersey IN the INTEREST OF A.A., Juvenile.

081793
A-50 September Term 2018

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Argued October 23, 2019
Decided January 15, 2020


Frank Muroski, Trenton, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for appellant State of New Jersey (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney; Frank Muroski, of counsel and on the briefs).

Alyssa Aiello, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for respondent A.A. (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney; Alyssa Aiello, of counsel and on the briefs).

William J. Munoz argued the cause for amicus curiae Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey (Whipple Azzarello, attorneys; William J. Munoz, on the brief).

Laura Cohen argued the cause for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Foundation and Rutgers Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, attorneys; Alexander Shalom and Jeanne LoCicero, of counsel and on the brief, and Laura Cohen, on the brief).

CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER delivered the opinion of the Court.

240 N.J. 344

In State v. Presha, 163 N.J. 304, 316, 748 A.2d 1108 (2000), the Court directed law enforcement officers to "use their best efforts to locate a parent or legal guardian" before starting to interrogate

240 N.J. 345

a juvenile in custody. In an otherwise intimidating setting, parents can help juveniles understand they have the right not to incriminate themselves and the right to have an attorney present -- and can help juveniles decide whether to waive their rights. Parents essentially serve "as a buffer" between juveniles and the police. Id. at 315, 748 A.2d 1108.

222 A.3d 684

In this appeal, we consider whether incriminating statements a fifteen-year-old made to his mother at a police station can be used against him. The police arrested the juvenile, A.A., in connection with a shooting incident, and summoned his mother to the police station in compliance with Presha. They advised her of the charges her son faced and then brought her to see him at her request.

Officers listened to the conversation between mother and son -- which took place on opposite sides of the gate of a holding cell -- and the State later presented the comments at trial. At no point did the police advise A.A. of his rights. Nor did they question him after he made admissions to his mother.

Like the Appellate Division, we find that the actions of the police amounted to the functional equivalent of interrogation. As a result, A.A. should have been advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), in the presence of his mother. To hold otherwise would turn Presha and the safeguards it envisioned on their head.

To address the special concerns presented when a juvenile is brought into custody, police officers should advise juveniles of their Miranda rights in the presence of a parent or guardian before the police question, or a parent speaks with, the juvenile. Officers should then let the parent and child consult in private. That approach would afford parents a meaningful opportunity to help juveniles understand their rights and decide whether to waive them.

Because A.A.'s inadmissible statements comprised a substantial part of the proofs against him, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division and remand for a new hearing.

240 N.J. 346

I.

This case involves a shooting that took place on July 7, 2016, at about 9:15 p.m., in front of a home on Wilkinson Avenue in Jersey City. We draw the following facts from testimony at a pretrial hearing and the delinquency proceeding.

Officer Joseph Labarbera of the Jersey City Police Department was on duty at the time and saw three black males on bicycles head east on Wilkinson Avenue. He also noticed how they were dressed. About fifteen seconds later, he and his partner heard eight to ten gunshots fired east of where they were located. As they drove on Wilkinson Avenue toward the gunfire, they transmitted over the radio what they had heard along with a description of the three men on bicycles. Soon after, two victims -- each with a gunshot wound to the leg -- were found in front of 135 Wilkinson Avenue, in the direction the cyclists were seen riding.

Detective Teddy Roque responded to the report of gunfire and drove around the general area. He spotted and later stopped two black males on one bicycle. Labarbera headed to the area and identified both individuals as the same people he had seen minutes earlier. One of them was A.A., who Labarbera also recognized from prior encounters that involved curfew violations.

The police found no weapons, ammunition, or gunpowder residue on the two individuals. Fourteen shell casings and one projectile were recovered at the crime scene.

The police took A.A. into custody, brought him to a juvenile facility, and placed him in a holding cell. No one else was taken into custody. In accordance with Presha, the police contacted A.A.'s mother, who arrived about thirty minutes later along with A.A.'s aunt. Both women were taken to an interview room where Detective

222 A.3d 685

Joseph Chidichimo and another officer told them about the incident and why A.A. was under arrest. A.A.'s mother was visibly emotional and asked to speak with her son; the officers then took her to the holding cell on the other side of the building where A.A. was detained. There were two cells in the area -- a

240 N.J. 347

space about twenty by thirty feet that also had a fingerprinting station, computers, printers, and two bathrooms.

The police allowed A.A. and his mother to speak through the gate of the holding cell. While they talked, five officers including Chidichimo were in the room within ten to fifteen feet of A.A. Chidichimo explained that he monitored A.A. and his mother as a safety precaution, consistent with police protocol.

Chidichimo testified at a pretrial hearing that he overheard the conversation between A.A. and his mother. According to the detective, A.A.'s mother asked if he had been on Wilkinson Avenue, and he confirmed that he had. When she asked why, A.A. responded, "because they jumped us last week." At that point, A.A.'s mother began to cry and left the room. The detective noted that he could hear the conversation because A.A.'s mother, who was "visibly upset" and "in an emotional state," raised her voice while she spoke, and A.A. responded in a "normal speaking tone."

The detective testified that he had intended to question A.A. if his mother consented. When she walked out of the room, though, he told her A.A. would be transferred to the juvenile detention facility and she was "free to leave." The police did not attempt to question A.A. or give him Miranda warnings at any point.

A.A.'s mother testified at the hearing. She explained that the police told her A.A. had "shot somebody" and that she asked to speak with her son. She said she was crying and spoke in a loud voice, and that she and her son could see multiple officers in the room at the time. She testified that A.A. denied "do[ing] that" and said nothing about "being jumped."

A.A. was charged with two counts of attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3 and 2C:5-1 ; possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a) ; unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b) ; and possession of a firearm by a minor, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1.

Prior to trial, the State moved to admit A.A.'s statements to his mother. After a hearing under Rule 104(c), at which Detective

240 N.J. 348

Chidichimo and A.A.'s mother testified, the Family Part judge concluded the statements were admissible. The court first credited the detective's testimony about what A.A. said to his mother. Next, the court determined that because A.A. was not subjected to a police interrogation or its functional equivalent, he was not entitled to Miranda warnings. The judge also found no evidence that the police exerted any pressure on A.A. or used any "invasive means to listen in on the conversation."

Among other evidence at the delinquency hearing, the State introduced A.A.'s statements; testimony from Labarbera, Roque, and Chidichimo; photos and physical evidence from the shooting, including shell casings, a projectile, and a pair of pants a victim wore; and video surveillance. Two weeks after the incident, the police obtained footage from a surveillance camera near the shooting. It showed three individuals riding bicycles side-by-side and then in a single line. The last cyclist appeared to draw a gun from his waist and fire with his left hand. The video was not clear enough to identify any of the cyclists. And none of the physical evidence directly connected A.A. to the shooting.

222 A.3d 686

A.A.'s mother testified at the delinquency hearing and recounted her version of the conversation at the...

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13 practice notes
  • N.J. Republican State Comm. v. Murphy, A-82 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 12, 2020
    ...its scope. Nor do we address the refinancing or refunding of bonds, an issue raised by amici. See ibid. ¶ 3(c); State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 359 n.1, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) ; Bethlehem Twp. Bd. of Educ. v. Bethlehem Twp. Educ. Ass'n, 91 N.J. 38, 48-49, 449 A.2d 1254 (1982). Finally......
  • In re Request to Modify Prison Sentences, M-1093 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 5, 2020
    ...that have not been asserted by a party, and are raised for the first time by an amicus curiae.’ " State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 359 n.1, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) (quoting State v. J.R., 227 N.J. 393, 421, 152 A.3d 180 (2017) ); accord Bethlehem Twp. Bd. of Educ. v. Bethlehem Twp.......
  • State v. McQueen, A-11 September Term 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 10, 2021
    ...present -- outside of earshot of the attending officers -- before the police attempt to commence questioning. State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 345, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) (stating that juveniles should be advised "of their Miranda rights in the presence of a parent or guardian bef......
  • State v. Ahmad, A-54 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 15, 2021
    ...of the United States Constitution, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, see 246 N.J. 610 State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 351, 222 A.3d 681 (2020), guarantees that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," U.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • N.J. Republican State Comm. v. Murphy, A-82 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 12, 2020
    ...its scope. Nor do we address the refinancing or refunding of bonds, an issue raised by amici. See ibid. ¶ 3(c); State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 359 n.1, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) ; Bethlehem Twp. Bd. of Educ. v. Bethlehem Twp. Educ. Ass'n, 91 N.J. 38, 48-49, 449 A.2d 1254 (1982). Finally......
  • In re Request to Modify Prison Sentences, M-1093 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 5, 2020
    ...arguments that have not been asserted by a party, and are raised for the first time by an amicus curiae.’ " State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 359 n.1, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) (quoting State v. J.R., 227 N.J. 393, 421, 152 A.3d 180 (2017) ); accord Bethlehem Twp. Bd. of Educ. v. Bethlehem......
  • State v. McQueen, A-11 September Term 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • August 10, 2021
    ...present -- outside of earshot of the attending officers -- before the police attempt to commence questioning. State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 345, 222 A.3d 681 (2020) (stating that juveniles should be advised "of their Miranda rights in the presence of a parent or guardian before t......
  • State v. Ahmad, A-54 September Term 2019
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • June 15, 2021
    ...of the United States Constitution, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, see 246 N.J. 610 State in Interest of A.A., 240 N.J. 341, 351, 222 A.3d 681 (2020), guarantees that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," U.S. Const. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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