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R. G. v. State

Supreme Court of Utah

November 15, 2017

R. G. and D.G., Appellants,
v.
State of Utah, Appellee.

         On Certification from the Court of Appeals

         Third Juvenile Court The Honorable Kimberly K. Hornak Nos. 1095932, 1095934

          Sam N. Pappas, Monica Maio, Salt Lake City, for appellants

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., John L. Nielsen, Asst. Sol. Gen., Kristin L. Zimmerman, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Justice Durham authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined. [1]

          OPINION

          Durham, Justice

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 D.G. and R.G. were accused of aggravated sexual assault in juvenile court. Both D.G. and R.G. filed a motion to suppress their post-Miranda statements regarding the sexual assault to a detective during an interview at their school. The juvenile court held an evidentiary hearing and denied the motion to suppress the post-Miranda statements. Both interviews with the detective regarding the sexual assault were introduced at trial. D.G. and R.G. were adjudicated delinquent for committing aggravated sexual assault. The court of appeals certified the case to this court; we have jurisdiction pursuant to Utah Code section 78A-3-102(3)(b).

         ¶2 We hold that the juvenile court did not err in denying D.G.'s and R.G.'s motion to suppress their post-Miranda statements. And, considering the totality of the circumstances surrounding their waivers, we hold that D.G. and R.G. knowingly and voluntarily waived their Miranda rights during the interview with the detective at their school.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Near the beginning of the school year in 2013, two fourteen-year-old boys, D.G. and R.G. went over to another male friend's house after school. After receiving a phone call from R.G., the victim and her friend, also both fourteen years of age, took the bus and joined D.G. and R.G. at the friend's house. D.G., R.G., and the third friend drove to the bus stop to pick up the two girls. While at the house, R.G. held a box cutter to the victim's throat and engaged in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with the victim. D.G., the other boy in the room during the sexual assault, also engaged in nonconsensual oral sex with the victim.

         ¶4 A few months later, the victim reported the sexual assault involving D.G. and R.G. to the West Valley City police. A West Valley City detective conducted individual interviews with D.G. and R.G. at their school in the school resource officer's office without a parent present for either minor. D.G. was interviewed first, and R.G.'s interview followed.

         ¶5 At the beginning of D.G.'s interview, the detective told D.G. why he was there and described his role as a detective. He asked D.G.: "You know what we do, right, police detectives? You know, we investigate things that may be crimes." The detective told D.G., "I just have to let you know that you don't have to talk to me." He then recited the Miranda rights to D.G. without pausing to check for understanding until after the rehearsed speech. Following the warning, the detective informed D.G. that he could "stop answering questions at any time and [he could] request counsel at any time during questioning." He asked D.G., "Do you understand those rights?" Then, the detective informed D.G. that he was not under arrest and he was not telling him anything to make him scared. The detective again asked, "Having those rights in mind, can I let you know [why] I'm here, you want to talk to me, tell me what is going on?" D.G. agreed to talk with the detective and eventually confessed to participating in non-consensual sex with the victim at the request of R.G.

         ¶6 As R.G.'s interview began, the detective said to R.G.: "The law makes sure and requires me to tell you what your rights are, okay?" The detective then recited the Miranda warning to R.G. from memory. His recitation was without the intonation and inflections that normally gives meaning and nuance in verbal speech. The volume of his voice lowers, and he speaks quickly in a well-rehearsed speech. The detective then asked R.G. the following questions: "Do you understand those rights?" "Having those rights in mind, can I talk to you?" and "Do you want to talk to me?" R.G. then proceeded to talk to the detective, eventually confessing to actions that amount to aggravated sexual assault.

         ¶7 In February 2014, the state filed a petition in juvenile court alleging aggravated sexual assault against D.G. and R.G. based on testimony from the victim and the confessions obtained in these interviews. D.G. and R.G. each filed a Motion to Suppress Statements and Request for Evidentiary Hearing, arguing that their Miranda waivers to the detective during the interviews at the school were not "made knowingly and voluntarily in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." Each later filed an amended motion to suppress.

         ¶8 The juvenile court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the Miranda waivers and the motion to suppress. Both of the boys' mothers and the detective testified at the hearing. The juvenile court denied D.G.'s and R.G.'s motions to suppress their testimony given during their interviews with the detective, and the statements were later introduced at trial. The juvenile court found that the detective asked D.G. and R.G. questions to be sure they understood their rights and that D.G. and R.G. were honors students capable of understanding their rights, and held that the Miranda rights waivers were valid.

         ¶9 After a bench trial, the juvenile court adjudicated both D.G. and R.G. delinquent for committing aggravated sexual assault. D.G.'s sentence included state supervised probation, completion of an early intervention program, a five-day detention, a Sexual Behavior Risk Assessment (SBRA), 150 hours of community service, and a requirement to provide fingerprints, a photograph, and a DNA specimen. R.G.'s sentence included state supervised probation, 150 hours of community service, one day of detention, an SBRA, a requirement to provide fingerprints, a photograph, and a DNA specimen, a no-contact order with D.G., and completion of an early intervention program.[3] D.G. and R.G. filed motions to stay their sentence and timely appealed. The record is silent on the court's decision regarding D.G.'s motion to stay. The juvenile court granted R.G.'s Motion to stay the SBRA, DNA sample, and fingerprinting pending appeal, but not the community service.

         ¶10 The issue now before this court is whether D.G. and R.G. knowingly and voluntarily waived their Miranda rights during the interview with the detective at their school. We hold that the Miranda warnings given to D.G. and R.G. were sufficient according to the standards this court and the United States Supreme Court have set, and that both D.G. and R.G. knowingly and voluntarily waived their Miranda rights. Accordingly, we hold that the juvenile court did not err in denying the motion to suppress their post-Miranda statements.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶11 "We review for correctness a trial court's ultimate ruling regarding the validity of a Miranda waiver, while 'granting some degree of discretion to the trial court because of the wide variety of factual settings possible.'" State v. Bybee, 2000 UT 43, ¶ 16, 1 P.3d 1087 (citations omitted). The findings of fact of the trial court are reviewed for clear error. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶12 We begin our analysis by discussing the unique purposes and development of the juvenile justice system. We then turn to a discussion of Miranda and its application to juvenile suspects. Finally, we analyze D.G.'s and R.G.'s ...


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