People v. Fioritto

Citation68 Cal.Rptr. 817,68 Cal.2d 714,441 P.2d 625
Decision Date20 June 1968
Docket NumberCr. 11948
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 441 P.2d 625 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Peter Paul FIORITTO, Defendant and Appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., Elizabeth Miller and Mark W. Jordan, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

MOSK, Jusice.

Defendant Peter Paul Fioritto appeals from a judgment convicting him of burglary in the second degree. (Pen.Code, § 459.) At trial the People introduced into evidence a confession signed by defendant, and defendant contends that this confession was elicited under circumstances that were violative of the standards enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. State of Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694. We conclude that under the explicit directives of Miranda defendant's confession was inadmissible, and accordingly the judgment must be reversed.

Defendant and two companions burglarized a market in the early morning hours, stole a small amount of cash and three cardboard boxes packed with cartons of cigarettes, and proceeded to a bowling alley where they peddled the cigarettes at a dollar a carton. At trial three persons identified defendant as the person from whom they had purchased cigarettes. One of the two accomplices described the burglary, recounted the sales at the bowling alley, and detailed defendant's participation in the crime. No evidence was offered by the defense.

The prosecution also introduced a confession made by defendant to police officers following his apprehension. The facts surrounding the making of the confession are not in dispute. After defendant was brought into the police station, he was administered the standard advice now required by the Miranda decision. The detective who so informed defendant then asked him to sign a waiver of his constitutional rights. Defendant refused. Almost immediately thereafter the officers confronted defendant with his two accomplices, both juveniles, who had confessed and had implicated defendant. In the presence of the officers, one of the juveniles and the defendant engaged in a heated argument over an eight-dollar loan. The juveniles were then taken out, and the detective again advised defendant of his rights, inquiring anew if he would like to sign the waiver and confess. Defendant then signed the waiver and confessed to the crime.

On this appeal the sole issue is the admissibility of defendant's confession. The People insist that the confession was admissible because the record contains no suggestion of impermissible interrogation techniques on the part of the detective who conducted the interview. But the People misconceive the Ratio decidendi of Miranda. A principal objective of that decision was to establish safeguards that would liberate courts insofar as possible from the difficult and troublesome necessity of adjudicating in each case whether coercive influences, phychological or physical, had been employed to secure admissions or confessions. We need not review here the history that produced the Miranda decision since it has been analyzed in innumerable cases and commentaries. It is sufficient to reiterate the words of Chief Justice Warren: 'The current practice of incommunicado interrogation is at odds with one of our Nation's most cherished principles-- It becomes our constitutional responsibility, therefore, to determine in every criminal case that the full panoply of Miranda 'protective devices' is satisfied. As we shall explain, defendant Fioritto's confession failed to comport with a specific 'protective device' in the Miranda opinion.

that the individual may not be compelled to incriminate himself. Unless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.' (Miranda v. State of Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 436, 458, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1619.)

We must first ascertain whether in this case police authorities were under an obligation to give the Miranda warnings. As that opinion makes plain, the procedural safeguards therein come into play only where 'custodial interrogation' is involved, and by 'custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.' (Miranda v. State of Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1612.) While the defendant here had not been formally arrested, we have long held that a suspect must be fully apprised of his rights upon being ushered into a police station and detained for questioning. (See, e.g., People v. Furnish (1965) 63 Cal.2d 511, 516, 47 Cal.Rptr. 387, 407 P.2d 299; People v. Chaney (1965) 63 Cal.2d 767, 769, 48 Cal.Rptr. 188, 408 P.2d 964.) Unquestionably Fioritto's freedom of action had been effectively restricted, and he was thus entitled to be given the Miranda wearings. Indeed, the very fact that the authorities administered these admonitions illustrates police recognition that any questioning they undertook was during a custodial period.

The central issue in this case, accordingly, is whether defendant's subsequent confession was admissible after he initially refused to waive his constitutional rights. Again, we look to the Miranda opinion for guidance, and on this point it could not be more explicit: 'Once warnings have been given, the subsequent procedure is clear. If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease. At this point he has shown that he intends to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege; Any statement taken after the person invokes his privilege cannot be other than the product of compulsion, subtle or otherwise. Without the right to cut off questioning, the setting of in-custody interrogation operates on the individual to overcome free choice in producing a statement after the privilege has been Once invoked.' (Italics added.) (384 U.S. 436, at pp. 473--474, 86 S.Ct. 1602, at pp. 1627--1628.)

By his refusal to waive his constitutional rights initially, defendant indicated that he intended to assert his rights--the privilege had been Once invoked--and all further attempts at police interrogation should have ceased. Although the confrontation of defendant with his two juvenile accomplices who had confessed injected a new factor into the questioning, the didactic language of the United States Supreme Court shows no disposition to permit subsequent interrogation in the absence of counsel even if authorities believe there has been a change of circumstances. Thus we have no alternative but to hold that the confession thereafter secured constituted inadmissible evidence at trial.

In so holding, we prohibit only continued questioning after an individual has Once asserted his constitutional rights. We do not, of course, disapprove of the use of statements, whether admissions or confessions, voluntarily initiated by a suspect. Such statements have been repeatedly sanctioned in the decisions of this court (see e.g., People v. Jacobson (1965) 63 Cal.2d 319, 328, 46 Cal.Rptr. 515, 405 P.2d 555), and are also expressly authorized in the Miranda opinion. 'There is no requirement,' We reiterate, however, that the foregoing authorities are inapposite under circumstances in which the police initiated resumption of interrogation. The form of the renewed queries, however subtle or gentle, cannot be considered in determining whether there has been a violation of the stern principles prescribed by the Supreme Court in Miranda.

[441 P.2d 628] said the court, 'that police stop a person who enters a police station and states that he wishes to confess to a crime, or a person who calls the police to offer a confession or any other statement he desires to make. Volunteered statement of any kind are not barred by the Fifth Amendment * * *.' (Miranda v. State of Arizona, supra, 384 U.S. 436, 478, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1630.) Thus in People v. Lara (1967) 67 A.C. 367, 62 Cal.Rptr. 586, 432 P.2d 202, we approved admission of later statements by the defendant after he had repeatedly been given admonitions of his constitutional rights. But we noted (at p. 394, 62 Cal.Rptr. at p. 604, 432 P.2d at p. 224) that the defendant 'had initiated the offer to the police to tell them what happened,' and, indeed, according to the trial judge, Lara 'made a very sophisticated approach by trying to make a deal with the officers. Both he and the officers agree that he instituted this, not the officers.' Again, in People v. Treloar (1966) 64 Cal.2d 141, 49 Cal.Rptr. 100, 410 P.2d 620, we distinguished between interrogation by police and initiation of discussion by a defendant. The court there found two complete confessions 'solicited by the police' (p. 143, 49 Cal.Rptr. 100, 410 P.2d 620) and three other statements 'entirely spontaneous and in no way elicited by the police' (p. 147, 49 Cal.Rptr. p. 104, 410 P.2d p. 624). In People v. Tomita (1968) 260 A.C.A. 88, 66 Cal.Rptr. 739 (hearing denied) the defendant was [68 Cal.2d 720] advised of and asserted his constitutional rights. The following morning, the day of his arraignment, the defendant summoned the arresting officer to his cell and voluntarily began a discussion of the events leading to his arrest. The court noted (at p. 92, 66 Cal.Rptr. 739) that the defendant had 'initiated a conversation' and under those circumstances the authorities were not precluded from using the volunteered statements.

The People and the defendant, who was but 19 years of age, differ as to whether the People's case against him for burglary, absent the confession, was overwhelming. That issue...

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