Does Station House Questioning Considered ''Custodial Interrogation'' ?
Stationhouse questioning does not, in and of itself, constitute custody. Id. Neither does being the focus of the investigation. Stansbury, 511 U.S. at 324; Snow v. State, 994 S.W.2d 737, 741 (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi 1999, no pet.).
Even a clear statement by an officer that the person under interrogation is the prime suspect is not in itself dispositive of the custody issue, for some suspects are free to come and go until the police decide to make an arrest. Stansbury, 511 U.S. at 324-26; Snow v. State, 994 S.W.2d at 741.
Rather, a person is considered in custody only if, based upon the objective circumstances, a reasonable person would believe he was restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest. Stansbury, 511 U.S. at 322-24; Snow v. State, 994 S.W.2d at 741.
The Court of Criminal Appeals has outlined four situations which may constitute custody:
(1) when the suspect's freedom of action is physically deprived in any significant way;
(2) when a law enforcement officer tells the suspect that he cannot leave;
(3) when law enforcement officers create a situation that would lead a reasonable person to believe that his freedom of movement has been significantly restricted;
(4) when there is probable cause to arrest and law enforcement officers do not tell the suspect that he is free to leave. Dowthitt v. State, 931 S.W.2d 244, 255 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996).
In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we afford almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts and view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling; however, we review the trial court's application of the law to the facts de novo. Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 87-89 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997).
Courts employ a two-step analysis to determine whether an individual is in custody. See In re M.R.R., 2 S.W.3d 319, 323 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1999, no pet.).
First, all the circumstances surrounding the interrogation must be examined to determine whether there was a formal arrest or restraint of freedom of movement to the degree associated with a formal arrest. See Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318, 322, 128 L. Ed. 2d 293, 114 S. Ct. 1526 (1994); In re M.R.R., 2 S.W.3d at 323.
This initial determination focuses on the objective circumstances of the interrogation, not on the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the individual being questioned. See Stansbury, 511 U.S. at 323; In re M.R.R., 2 S.W.3d at 323.
Second, a court considers whether, in light of the given circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt he or she was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. See Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 112, 133 L. Ed. 2d 383, 116 S. Ct. 457 (1995); In re M.R.R., 2 S.W.3d at 323.
Traditionally, courts considered four factors in making this determination:
(1) whether probable cause to arrest existed at the time of questioning;
(2) the subjective intent of the police;
(3) the focus of the investigation;
(4) the subjective belief of the defendant. In re M.R.R., 2 S.W.3d at 323.
Under Stansbury, however, the subjective intent of both the police and the defendant are irrelevant except to the extent that they may be manifested in the words or actions of the investigating officials. Id.
The custody determination is based entirely upon objective circumstances. Id.