United States v. Barnes

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-18-2013
  • Case #: 11-30107
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Hawkins, McKeown and Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

An officer engages in prohibited “two-step interrogation” when the officer, in a custodial setting, deliberately delays giving Miranda warnings to induce cooperation in an ongoing investigation.

Michael D. Barnes was convicted for distribution of controlled substances after the district court denied his motion to suppress statements he made to his parole officer before he was read his Miranda warnings. The Ninth Circuit addressed whether Barnes’ interrogation was custodial and whether it was a “deliberate two-step” approach in violation of Missouri v. Seibert. Pursuing a drug trafficking investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) agents scheduled a meeting with Barnes through his probation officer. Barnes did not know that FBI agents would be present for the meeting, nor was he informed that he would be searched (unlike other mandatory meetings). Without Mirandizing him, the agents told Barnes they knew of his drug distribution. After the agents played a portion of incriminating recorded phone calls, Barnes rescinded his initial denial and admitted he remembered the transaction. Only then did the agents advise Barnes of his Miranda rights. Barnes waived his rights, confessed his involvement, and was indicted. Considering the involuntariness of the meeting, his probation officer’s misrepresentation of purpose for the meeting, the agents’ direct confrontation of Barnes with evidence of guilt pre-Miranda warning, and the nature of the meeting after a search, the panel found the meeting qualified as “custodial interrogation.” The panel further found that the agents engaged in prohibited “two-step interrogation” by intentionally delaying Miranda warnings to induce Barnes’ assistance in their investigation. Though Barnes was not the target of inquiry, the questioning “elicited information that incriminated [Barnes],” and any “mid-stream warnings” after the self-incrimination were “too little, too late.” The panel held that the lower court’s denial of Barnes’ motion to suppress his statements made to the FBI agents during the meeting was not harmless error. REVERSED.

Advanced Search