United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
For Mark Price, Defendants: Albert E. Medici, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEY, Johnston, RI USA.
John J. McConnell, Jr.,
United States District Judge
The crux of the issue presented in this motion is whether Mark Price's statement that " I don't want to incriminate myself, I'll let you guys figure it out," is an invocation of his constitutional right to remain silent.
Defendant's Motion To Suppress (ECF No. 14) arises from an interview conducted on May 5, 2014 at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" F.B.I." ) in Providence, Rhode Island. F.B.I. agents went to the Mr. Price's Samoset Street residence in Providence, Rhode Island and arrested him for his alleged involvement in an on-going drug trafficking investigation. (ECF No. 14-2 at 1). The agents wanted to enlist his cooperation against potential drug traffickers or, alternatively, charge him with crimes stemming from conduct that took place in August 2013 and January 2014. F.B.I. agents placed Mr. Price in their vehicle and asked him if he wished to cooperate in an ongoing investigation. At this point, Mr. Price was uncertain if he wanted to cooperate and stated that he would like to see the evidence against him before making a final determination. The agents then transported Mr. Price to the
F.B.I.'s Providence office. There, he was brought into an interview room and verbally advised of his Miranda rights. The FBI agents then asked Mr. Price some questions about his residency, employment history, and prior contacts with law enforcement. Two reports from F.B.I. agent Colin Wood dated May 8, 2014 memorialized the interrogation. (ECF No. 14-1 and 14-2).
At some point, the line of questioning shifted to conduct on August 30, 2013 in which Mr. Price was allegedly involved. The interviewers showed Mr. Price pictures of the alleged conduct that took place that day. At this point Mr. Price told interviewers, " I don't want to incriminate myself, I'll let you guys figure it out." (ECF No. 14-1 at 3).
Agent Woods' report attributed numerous statements to Mr. Price subsequent to this statement about not wanting to incriminate himself. The statements included statements relative to his presence near a January 16, 2014 controlled drug buy, as well as statements regarding marijuana use between the Mr. Price and another individual. Mr. Price moves to suppress these subsequent statements.
Mr. Price argues that his statement that he did not want to incriminate himself was an invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination because upon making this assertion, the interrogation should have ceased and the Court should suppress any statements made thereafter. (ECF No. 14-1). The United States filed a Memorandum in response to Mr. Price's Motion to Suppress. (ECF No. 15-1).
The Court held a hearing on the Motion to Suppress on September 29, 2014 at which both parties agreed that there was no need to take evidence, they both agreed to the relevant facts, and that they agreed the motion presented a question of law for the Court to decide. The Court then heard legal arguments on the motion. This Court will first discuss the law applicable to the issues at bar and then address the arguments raised by Mr. Price.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution affords individuals the privilege against self-incrimination. U.S. Const., amend V; Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 439, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The Supreme Court in Miranda held that custodial police interrogations, by their very nature, " work to undermine the individual's will to resist and compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely." 384 U.S. at 467. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that a suspect's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is at risk during a custodial police interrogation. Id. at 478. In order to " combat" the coercive nature of an interrogation the Supreme Court set forth procedural safeguards. Id. at 467. These procedural safeguards require interrogating officers " adequately and effectively" to warn individuals of their rights in order assure the free exercise of those rights. Id. Specifically, an individual must be warned, " he has the right to remain silent." Id. at 444. The Court also made it abundantly clear that once an individual invokes their right to remain silent the interrogation must cease and that " any statement taken after the person invokes his privilege cannot be other than the product of compulsion, subtle or otherwise." Id. at 474.
More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held that if an accused wishes to exercise their right to cut off questioning by invoking their right to remain silent, then they must do so in an unequivocal and unambiguous manner. ...