Florida Supreme Court reverses 2018 ruling on Miranda rights reminder

Florida Supreme Court reverses 2018 ruling on Miranda rights reminder

‘Although we hold that there is no per se requirement than an officer remind and readvise a defendant of his Miranda rights, evidence of such would certainly be relevant to an overall analysis of whether the defendant voluntarily waived those rights’

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday receded from its 2018 ruling in Shelly v. State that requires investigators to “remind or readvise” suspects of their rights when the suspects “reinitiate contact” with their interrogators.

Justice Jamie Grosshans, writing for the majority, concluded that a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bradshaw, provides the proper standard.

“That standard asks two things: (1) did the suspect reinitiate contact with police and, if so, (2) did he knowingly and voluntarily waive his earlier-invoked Miranda rights.”

The May 2 ruling is from State of Florida v. Zachary Joseph Penna, Case No. SC2022-0458.

Penna was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the 2015 slayings of two Palm Beach County men during a bizarre, one-man crime spree.

Penna was shot after attacking his arresting officers with a knife, but he was alert when police advised him of his Miranda rights at the hospital, court records show.

The investigators halted an initial interrogation when Penna requested a lawyer.

During his weeks-long hospital stay, Penna subsequently struck up conversations with an investigator who was guarding him on five separate occasions, and ultimately incriminated himself.

Penna’s lawyers, citing Shelly, attempted to suppress the statements before the trial. But the court, noting that Penna initiated the conversations, denied the motion.

In 2021, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that three of five statements should have been suppressed. The error wasn’t harmless because the statements undermined Penna’s insanity defense, the court ruled.

“Despite the horrible facts underlying these convictions, we are compelled to reverse these convictions and remand for a new trial due to a violation of the defendant’s Miranda rights,” the majority wrote.

In his dissent, Fourth DCA Judge Ed Artau agreed that some of the statements should have been suppressed. But he argued the evidence against Penna was so overwhelming, the outcome wouldn’t have changed.

At the request of prosecutors, Artau certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court:

“Did Shelly v. State, 262 SO. 3D 1 (Fla. 2018) abandon the ‘totality of the circumstances’ test set forth in Oregon v. Bradshaw, 462 U.S. 1039 (1983), in favor of the requirement recognized in Quarles v. State, 290 SO. 505 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020), that law enforcement must re-read Miranda rights before commencing further interrogation with a suspect who has re-initiated communications subsequent to invocation of his or her Miranda rights?”

Pointing to the state’s argument that the “remind-or-readvise requirement” conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the justices wrote that “We think the state’s argument has merit.”

“As our discussion above demonstrates, and as recognized in Shelly itself, Bradshaw does not state a legal rule that a suspect must always be reminded of or re-given Miranda rights following re-initiation of contact with police.”

Calling Shelly “clearly erroneous,” the justices also determined that there is no reason to believe that suspects rely on it.

“In our view, detained suspects like Penna are not likely to have substantially altered their dealings with police based on the existence of this one requirement.”

However, the justices made a final observation.

“Although we hold that there is no per se requirement than an officer remind and readvise a defendant of his Miranda rights, evidence of such would certainly be relevant to an overall analysis of whether the defendant voluntarily waived those rights.”

The ruling returns the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeal “for reconsideration under the proper standard as stated in this opinion.”

Grosshans was joined in the opinion by Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz, and Justices Charles Canady, John Couriel, Renatha Francis, and Meredith Sasso.

In his dissent, Justice Jorge Labarga disagreed that Florida should recede from Shelly because it conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Labarga notes that the Florida Constitution also confers a right against self-incrimination.

“[S]tate courts are absolutely free to interpret state constitutional provisions to accord greater protection to individual rights than do similar provisions of the United States Constitution.”

Originally published at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/florida-supreme-court-reverses-2018-ruling-on-miranda-rights-reminder/

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