State v. Taylor E., 34,261

CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico
Citation385 P.3d 639
Docket NumberNO. 34,261,34,261
Parties STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. TAYLOR E., Child–Appellee.
Decision Date29 August 2016

385 P.3d 639

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff–Appellant,
TAYLOR E., Child–Appellee.

NO. 34,261

Court of Appeals of New Mexico.

Filing Date: August 29, 2016

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, Walter Hart, Assistant Attorney General, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant.

Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender, J.K. Theodosia Johnson, Assistant Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellee.


VANZI, Judge.

{1} Taylor E. (Child), a juvenile on probation, made incriminating statements to his probation officer that jeopardized his probationary status. In response to a subsequent petition to revoke his probation, Child moved to suppress those statements, contending that they were inadmissible because the State proffered no independent evidence of the admitted conduct and no evidence that the probation officer had advised Child of his rights under the Delinquency Act (the Act), NMSA 1978, §§ 32A–2–1 to –33 (1993, as amended through 2016), of the New Mexico Children's Code. The State challenges the district court's ruling that Child's incriminating statements must be suppressed. We reverse.


{2} In 2011, when Child was almost fourteen years old, the State filed a delinquency petition alleging that he had committed a battery against a household member. Child pleaded no contest and, pursuant to a consent decree, was placed on supervised probation for six months subject to certain terms and conditions, with an automatic six-month extension. Less than a year after Child signed the agreement stating the terms and conditions of probation, the State filed a petition to revoke Child's probation, alleging that Child had violated specific conditions of the probation agreement; i.e., by drug trafficking, possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, running away, and being unsuccessfully discharged from treatment foster care. Child pleaded no contest, and the district court entered an order revoking Child's probation. The order committed Child to the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) for two years, but ordered that the commitment be suspended and that, pursuant to Section 32A–2–19(B)(2), Child be placed on probation subject to terms and conditions for a period not to exceed two years.

{3} The terms and conditions of probation were memorialized in a probation agreement (the Agreement) signed by Child and his juvenile probation officer (JPO), among others. The Agreement listed twenty conditions, including that Child would attend school with no un-excused absences; that he would not use or possess alcohol, drugs, drug paraphernalia, or weapons; and that he would not commit any act forbidden by law. The Agreement also provided that Child's JPO could periodically visit Child's home, school, or work site, and could search Child's person and property if the JPO deemed it necessary.

{4} A month before his probation period was to expire, Child violated several conditions of the Agreement. Based on a report by Child's JPO, the State filed a petition to revoke probation, alleging that Child had twice failed to attend school "with no un-excused absences"; that he was "issued a Class III for Battery after he was involved in a physical confrontation with another student"; that he was in possession of a pipe in his pocket; and that he admitted to his JPO that he had smoked "spice" (a synthetic cannabinoid) that morning and had been smoking spice on a daily basis. The revocation petition contained no allegation that Child had committed a "delinquent act," nor does the record reveal that Child had been arrested for any of the conduct alleged in the

385 P.3d 642

revocation petition, or that a delinquency petition was filed alleging that Child had committed a delinquent act based on the conduct alleged in the revocation petition.

{5} Prior to the probation revocation hearing, Child filed a motion to suppress his admissions to the JPO that he had smoked spice, arguing that they were inadmissible under Section 32A–2–14(G) of the Act because the State failed to provide corroborating evidence of Child's spice use and because the JPO failed to give Miranda warnings and/or recitations required by Section 32A–2–14(D) before questioning him about his possession and use of spice.

{6} Child's JPO, Roscio Sarmiento, the sole witness at the suppression hearing, testified that Child's "mother" called her and reported that Child had been suspended from school because an officer had seen him in possession of a pipe. In response, Ms. Sarmiento set up a meeting with Child for the following day, which she described as "almost like a routine meeting. Anytime there's an incident with one of the [children, I] try to call them in as soon as possible." As she generally does in such situations, Sarmiento met with Child at her office.

{7} At the meeting, Sarmiento asked Child the same types of routine questions she asks her clients following an incident that might affect their probationary status. For example, she asks about the issue or incident, how they are doing in school, what led up to the incident, whether they are having problems at home, whether they are "clean," and whether they are using drugs. In addition to these questions, Sarmiento asked Child about the pipe and drug use. Although he initially said he was clean, Child later admitted that he had used drugs. Sarmiento testified that she did not give Child any Miranda warnings before questioning him about his drug use; that she would have done so only if a new charge would be filed; and that she did not believe that there would be a new charge against Child in this instance.

{8} The district court granted Child's motion to suppress. The order contains no factual findings and states only that "[a]ny of [Child's] statements made to [Sarmiento] on September 17, 2014 related to this cause are hereby suppressed pursuant to Section 32A–2–14(G) ...,1 Section 32A–2–14(C) [, and] Section 32A–2–14(D)." This appeal followed.


{9} "A motion to suppress evidence involves a mixed question of fact and law." State v. Vandenberg , 2003–NMSC–030, ¶ 17, 134 N.M. 566, 81 P.3d 19. "Thus, our review ... involves two parts: the first is a factual question, which we review for substantial evidence; the second is a legal question, which we review de novo." Id. As noted, the district court made no written findings of fact to support its decision to suppress Child's incriminatory statements to his JPO. In such circumstances, we generally draw all inferences and indulge all presumptions in favor of the district court's ruling in conducting our de novo assessment of whether the court correctly applied the law. See State v. Nysus , 2001–NMCA–102, ¶ 18, 131 N.M. 338, 35 P.3d 993 ("On appeal, we look to whether the law was correctly applied to the facts and review the evidence in the light most favorable to support the decision reached below, resolving all conflicts and indulging all inferences in support of that decision."). The relevant facts are undisputed.

{10} The question whether Miranda applies in these circumstances requires application of law to the facts and is reviewed de novo. See State v. Nieto , 2000–NMSC–031, ¶ 19, 129 N.M. 688, 12 P.3d 442 (applying de novo review of question whether there was a custodial interrogation requiring Miranda warnings). We also review de novo the question whether the district court correctly applied the Act. See State v. Antonio T. , 2015–NMSC–019, ¶ 12, 352 P.3d 1172 (stating that statutory interpretation is a question of law that is reviewed de novo).


385 P.3d 643

{11} The question presented is whether the failure of Child's JPO to give " Miranda " warnings before questioning Child after she learned of his suspension from school because an officer had seen him in possession of a pipe rendered Child's inculpatory statements to the JPO inadmissible in Child's probation revocation proceedings.2 Below, Child relied not only on the Act but also on law addressing the rights of adult probationers under the federal constitutional Miranda rule. Here, both parties rely on authority addressing constitutional protections against self-incrimination available to juveniles and adult probationers, as well as certain requirements for the application of the constitutional Miranda rule. The parties are less than precise in distinguishing between the constitutional Miranda rule and the "Miranda" protections available under the Act, but the Act itself references the "constitutional rights" of juveniles (see Sections 32A–2–14C, D), and Child relies on those provisions on appeal. In addition, New Mexico courts have considered constitutional Miranda jurisprudence in determining the scope of protections against self-incrimination available to adult probationers and to juveniles subject to the Act. And the issue in this case arises because our Supreme Court has not definitively delineated the scope of the protection against self-incrimination available to juveniles in this context. For these reasons, and because the rule Child advocates, if accepted, would have profound consequences for the administration of New Mexico's juvenile justice system, we consider in some detail the constitutional Miranda rule, the relevant provisions of the Act, and the aims and operation of the...

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