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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In D.M. v. State of Indiana, an 18-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

A juvenile challenges the admissibility of his confession in a delinquency proceeding on grounds that he was not afforded an opportunity for meaningful consultation with his mother and that the waiver of his rights was not knowing and voluntary. We conclude that there was substantial evidence of probative value to support the juvenile court's decision to admit the confession. We also conclude that the juvenile waiver form used by the police in this case should be clarified. * * *

[I] In sum, there is substantial evidence of probative value that D.M. and Mother were afforded an opportunity for meaningful consultation free from police pressure. The meaningful consultation requirement is a safeguard in addition to Miranda intended to ensure that police action does not overcome the juvenile's will and result in a compelled statement. Mother's apparent reluctance to engage in any meaningful dialogue with D.M. concerning D.M.'s rights and the waiver of those rights was not due to any police pressures. Rather, the police provided D.M. an opportunity for meaningful consultation with his custodial parent before the waiver of his rights. * * *

In sum, there is substantial evidence of probative value that D.M.'s rights were waived knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily under the totality of the circumstances. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not err in admitting D.M.'s confession.

[II] The dispute in this case may have been averted had the juvenile waiver form been clearer. Although the form was not so deficient that it violated the constitutional requirements of Miranda or the essential statutory requirements of Indiana Code section 31-32-5-1, it could have provided more accurate and clear guidance such that there would be no dispute here. * * *

Written waiver forms are not required to satisfy the constitutional demands of Miranda or the statutory requirements of Indiana Code section 31-32-5-1, but they are particularly strong evidence.21 When they are used, they should be clear and unequivocal. Had a clearer form been used in this case, any putative confusion likely would have been resolved as soon as the form was read by D.M. and Mother. A clear form following the guidelines provided here should serve to clarify any ambiguities that arise prior to signing the form and thereby prevent a court from undertaking an in-depth look at how ambiguous and innocent precustodial-interrogation occurrences affect the actual custodial interrogation and the requisite procedures applicable to such interrogation.

Conclusion. We affirm the juvenile court's decision to admit D.M.'s confession and its finding that D.M. is a delinquent child for committing acts that would have been felonies if they had been committed by an adult.

Shepard, C.J., and Dickson and David, JJ., concur.
Rucker, J., concurs in result.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 22, 2011 12:23 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions