Carr v. State

In Carr v. State, 840 P.2d 1000 (Alaska App. 1992), the Court was asked to decide whether a prison inmate (serving a sentence on unrelated charges) was subjected to custodial interrogation in violation of Miranda when the state troopers enlisted the inmate's girlfriend to telephone him in prison and try to get him to make self-incriminatory statements about his suspected sexual abuse of a child. Because the girlfriend telephoned Carr at the behest of the state troopers, and because her conversation with Carr was calculated to elicit incriminating statements from him, we assumed (without deciding) that Carr was subjected to police interrogation during the telephone conversation. 18 However, we then explained that not all police interrogations were covered by Miranda: Just as compulsory self-incrimination presupposes some kind of compulsion, ... "custody," for Miranda purposes, presupposes at least some minimal element of coerciveness. ... The standard for determining Miranda custody is objective: Miranda warnings are required [when] police interrogation [is] conducted under circumstances in which a "reasonable person would feel he was not free to leave and break off the questioning". Hunter v. State, 590 P.2d 888, 895 (Alaska 1979). Carr, 840 P.2d at 1003. Examining the circumstances of the case, the Court concluded that Carr's interrogation had not been custodial. First, Carr was unaware that his girlfriend was cooperating with the state troopers in their investigation of the suspected sexual abuse. Second, there was nothing in the record to indicate that Carr "was under any degree of compulsion in electing to accept [his girlfriend's] call or that he was in any way inhibited from terminating the call after accepting it." And third, Carr was not in prison as an arrested suspect in the sexual abuse case; rather, he was serving a sentence imposed for an unrelated crime.