An admission of guilt may have serious consequences for a criminal defense. Indiana requires the police to record these admissions or confessions if they are made at a place of detention, such as a police station or any other building owned or operated by law enforcement.
The state supreme court is currently wrestling with the issue of whether a hotel room is a place of detention in the prosecution of an alleged heroin dealer. The court heard oral argument regarding the case in November. In this case, Grant County law enforcement enticed the defendant to a hotel under the pretense of looking to buy heroin. They arrested him after he arrived.
In the hotel room, the defendant told police where they could find the heroin that he brought to the hotel. Police later confronted him with additional drugs that he did not disclose. He said that he did not make them aware of this additional heroin because he did not want police to catch him with these drugs.
Police did not record either of these admissions.
The trial court allowed these admissions into evidence, nonetheless. The defendant was convicted on felony and misdemeanor drug charges and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
The defendant filed an appeal of his conviction because there was no recording of his statements. A state appeals court agreed that the conversations should have been recorded and the conversations were not part of a routine booking. It upheld the conviction, however, because it found that the admission of these statements did not impact his conviction because the state had presented other evidence.
The defense argued before the supreme court that police used this hotel for its sting operations and were waiting for the defendant to arrive. Police had adequate time to install electronic recording equipment as part of their planning for this sting operation, according to the defense.
Prosecutors argued that the hotel was not the functional equivalent of a place of detention or jail, which are equipped in advance with necessary equipment. They claim that the defendant's argument would make any location where police bring in suspects for questioning a place of detention.
Behavior during and after an arrest can have long-term consequences. An attorney can protect a defendant's rights and help challenge evidence.
Source: The Indiana Lawyer, "Justices considering definition of 'place of detention,'" Olivia Covington, Nov. 21, 2017