The Law Court's Proper Application of Miranda in State v. Bragg: A "Matter-of-Fact Communication" to the Defendant Regarding Evidence Against Him Will Not Typically Constitute "Interrogation"
In State v. Bragg, Tammy Bragg was convicted of a Class D crime for operating under the influence (OUI) at the completion of a jury trial, and was ordered to pay a fine of $800 and her license was suspended for ninety days. During her trial, Bragg submitted a motion to suppress statements she made in the police officer’s vehicle and the police station on the grounds that she was not read her Miranda warnings prior to making the statements. The Superior Court denied her motion, however, concluding that Miranda warnings were not necessary in the officer’s vehicle because her statements were not made while “in custody.” In addition, the warnings were unnecessary at the police station when the officer informed Bragg that the intoxilyzer test confirmed that “her blood alcohol content (BAC) was .13%. . . . . and that the presumptive statements were not in response to “the functional equivalent of a question.” On appeal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, was not as to rule for the first time in Maine whether a police officer’s statements to the defendant regarding evidence against her “was the functional equivalent of the direct questioning and reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response,” requiring a Miranda warning. The Law Court affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress statement made by Bragg in the cruiser, and those made at the police station on the grounds that the officer’s statement informing Bragg of the intoxilyzer results were merely “a matter-of-fact communication of the evidence,” which was not “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating reponse.” In coming to its conclusion, the Law Court held that Bragg was entitled to information regarding her BAC level upon request, and even though she did not request it, “the officer’s simple statement relating that information” would not trigger a Miranda warning. This Note considers whether the unanimous majority in Bragg properly concluded that criminal defendants who are only informed of evidence against them are not entitled to a Miranda warning. This Note begins in Part II with a brief history and overview of the purposes of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, and how Maine has determined when the warnings should be applied, particularly in the context of statements made by law enforcement officers that rise to the level of a “functional equivalent of a question.” In Part III, this Note determines how Bragg will likely pose obstacles for defendants in attempting to bring suppression motions regarding statements made in response to evidence presented against them by law enforcement. In Part IV, this Note proposes that Bragg is consistent with other jurisdictions and the purposes of Miranda, and quite clearly demonstrates that criminal defendants in Maine will be limited in arguing that they were entitled to a Miranda warning after being told of truthful evidence against them. Finally, in Part V, this Note concludes by arguing that courts should rely on Bragg in similar cases, as long as it is done on a case-by-case basis.
Stephen B. Segal,
The Law Court's Proper Application of Miranda in State v. Bragg: A "Matter-of-Fact Communication" to the Defendant Regarding Evidence Against Him Will Not Typically Constitute "Interrogation",
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol65/iss2/25
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