Juvenile Officer v. J.L.H. (In re Interest of J.L.H.)

Citation488 S.W.3d 689
Decision Date08 March 2016
Docket NumberWD 77850
Parties In the Interest of: J.L.H. Juvenile Officer, Respondent, v. J.L.H., Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

488 S.W.3d 689

In the Interest of: J.L.H.

Juvenile Officer, Respondent,
J.L.H., Appellant.

WD 77850

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

OPINION FILED: March 8, 2016
Application for Transfer to Supreme Court Denied May 3, 2016

Craig Johnston, Columbia, MO Counsel for Appellant.

Reginald Stockman, Kansas City, MO Counsel for Respondent.

Before En Banc Division: Alok Ahuja, Chief Judge, Victor C. Howard, Thomas H. Newton, Lisa White Hardwick, James Edward Welsh, Mark D. Pfeiffer, Karen King Mitchell, Cynthia L. Martin, Gary D. Witt, Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges, and Joseph M. Ellis, Senior Judge1

Thomas H. Newton, Judge

J.L.H. appeals a juvenile court adjudication on a motion to modify a prior order of disposition, finding that he would have been found guilty if tried as an adult of violating section 571.080 (transfer of a concealable firearm without a permit).2 J.L.H. contends that the juvenile court committed reversible error when it denied a motion to suppress his statement to the police in response to custodial interrogation conducted in violation of section 211.059. We agree and reverse.

This appeal requires us to resolve an issue of first impression. We must decide whether the narrow public-safety exception recognized in New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649, 104 S.Ct. 2626, 81 L.Ed.2d 550 (1984), to the obligation to give Miranda3 warnings should be read by implication into section 211.059, a Missouri statute that expressly addresses a juvenile's rights during custodial interrogations.4

Factual and Procedural Background

Based on a tip about an individual with a gun relayed by a parking attendant and security dispatcher at the Country Club

488 S.W.3d 692

Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, uniformed, off-duty police officers who were working as Plaza security began following J.L.H. in late April 2014. He stood out from the group of young people he was with because he was wearing a yellow hoodie, which had been an identifying characteristic of the tip, and he began walking away from the group after he was spotted. When ordered to stop, J.L.H. began to run. He was apprehended after a chase that ended as he stopped and lay down at the bottom of a hill along Brush Creek in response to a command to show his hands. He was handcuffed, frisked, and lifted onto a retaining wall, and held by one of the officers. After about five to eight minutes, he was walked up the hill from the creek surrounded by several officers and was asked where he threw the gun. Before asking the question, the officers did not provide the warnings to J.L.H., who was known to one of them, as required under Miranda5 and section 211.059.1, including his right to remain silent and the consequences of making an incriminating statement.6

Searching for the weapon, other officers who had been canvassing the area, found a handgun in a bush where J.L.H. said he had thrown it. Officer William Thompson who actually found the gun, a semi-automatic, .40 caliber Glock pistol with six live rounds, testified during the adjudication hearing that he knew to look for it in a bush along Brush Creek because he was “doing an area canvass, just looking everywhere.”7

The juvenile officer filed a motion to modify, alleging that J.L.H. “violated Section 571.080 RSMo by knowingly possessing, in Jackson County, Missouri, a concealable handgun, a Smith and Wesson [sic] Glock Pistol and by possessing, in Jackson County, Missouri, ammunition that is suitable for use only in a handgun, approximately 6 live rounds loaded in the Glock Pistol.”8 J.L.H. filed a motion to suppress the statement to the police about the handgun's location and orally amended the motion to specifically allege a violation of section 211.059. The police officers involved in the chase and search for the handgun testified to the facts set forth above during the suppression hearing. The juvenile court denied J.L.H.'s motion to suppress the statement about the handgun's location, finding that the “tip was not anonymous or unreliable, the stop was justified and the question asked of the juvenile does fall within the public safety exception.” J.L.H.'s statement to the police

488 S.W.3d 693

was admitted over objection during the adjudication hearing. Following the adjudication hearing, the juvenile court sustained the juvenile officer's allegation, committed J.L.H. to the custody of the director of Family Court Services, and suspended the commitment, placing J.L.H. in his grandmother's custody where he had been since a 2009 disposition. Other than the statement that J.L.H. made about the handgun, no additional evidence had been introduced to prove that the recovered handgun had been in his possession. J.L.H. was fourteen years old when the custodial interrogation took place.

Legal Analysis Custodial Interrogation of a Juvenile

In the first point, J.L.H. argues that the juvenile court committed reversible error when it overruled the motion to suppress his statement to officers and later admitted that statement over objection because his statement was obtained during a custodial interrogation that violated section 211.059. We review a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress by considering both the suppression hearing and trial evidence “to determine whether sufficient evidence exists in the record to support the trial court's ruling.” State v. Grayson, 336 S.W.3d 138, 142 (Mo. banc 2011). We defer to the trial court's credibility determinations and factual findings, asking “only whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). We reverse for clear error. Id. We review questions of law de novo. State v. Werner, 9 S.W.3d 590, 595 (Mo. banc 2000).

Section 211.059 provides:

Rights of children when taken into custody (Miranda warnings).—

1. When a child is taken into custody by a juvenile officer or law enforcement official, with or without a warrant for an offense in violation of the juvenile code or the general law which would place the child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court ..., the child shall be advised prior to questioning:

(1) That he has the right to remain silent; and

(2) That any statement he does make to anyone can be and may be used against him; and

(3) That he has the right to have a parent, guardian or custodian present during questioning; and

(4) That he has a right to consult with an attorney and that one will be appointed and paid for him if he cannot afford one.

2. If the child indicates in any manner and at any stage of questioning pursuant to this section that he does not wish to be questioned further, the officer shall cease questioning.

The State has not contested that J.L.H. was not given the warnings specified in section 211.059.1 before making statements concerning the handgun's location. The State argues, however, that the statutory warnings were not required, because the circumstances fell within the scope of the “public safety” exception recognized in New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649, 104 S.Ct. 2626, 81 L.Ed.2d 550 (1984). We reject the State's contention that we can read an unstated “public safety” exception into the mandatory provisions of section

488 S.W.3d 694

In Quarles, an adult defendant arrested on suspicion of rape was not Mirandized before he was asked to reveal the location of a handgun after he was handcuffed and in custody.10 467 U.S. at 652, 104 S.Ct. 2626. The Court recognized that the “Fifth Amendment guarantees that ‘[n]o person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.’ ” Id. at 654, 104 S.Ct. 2626. The Court recognized that Miranda “extended the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination to individuals subjected to custodial interrogation by the police.” Id. The Court also recognized that “[r]equiring Miranda warnings before custodial interrogation provides ‘practical reinforcement’ for the Fifth Amendment right.” Id. (quoting Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 444, 94 S.Ct. 2357, 41 L.Ed.2d 182 (1974) ). In short, “the prophylactic Miranda warnings therefore are ‘not themselves rights protected by the Constitution.’ ” Id. (quoting Tucker, 417 U.S. at 444, 94 S.Ct. 2357 ). Based on this analysis, the Court ruled that “the need for answers to questions in a situation posing a threat to the public safety outweighs the need for the prophylactic rule protecting the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination.” Id. at 657, 104 S.Ct. 2626. As such, the Court recognized “a ‘public safety’ exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be given before a suspect's answers may be admitted into evidence.” Id. at 655, 104 S.Ct. 2626. The effect of the exception is to qualify when Miranda warnings must be given.

Although Quarles recognized a public-safety exception as a matter of constitutional law, section 211.059 must be interpreted independently of federal constitutional decisions. It is well-established that the General Assembly has the authority to provide greater protections than the federal constitution requires. See, e.g., State ex rel. J.D.S. v. Edwards, 574 S.W.2d 405, 409–10 (Mo. banc 1978). Plainly, the General...

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