Ingham County Judge Rules Statements Inadmissable
An Ingham County District Court judge recently suppressed a woman’s statements to the police. The judge determined those statements were made under the threat that the police would call Children’s Protective Services (CPS) if she did not talk to them. Judge Hugh Clarke of the 54A District Court in downtown Lansing believed Victoria Roe’s testimony at a recent preliminary hearing. He ordered that her statements to the police should be suppressed, essentially because they were made under duress.
In July, Roe was in her Lansing home when Lansing Police Department officers raided the home to search for drugs. The police had a search warrant and found significant amounts of Cocaine, firearms, and drug paraphernalia. Roe testified in court that she was home with her 14-month-old child when the raid occurred. She said police asked her multiple times about her involvement with the drugs. Roe allegedly asked the police whether she needed an attorney, and the police officers then allegedly suggested that if she did not cooperate, they would call Children’s Protective Services to report that she was in the drug house with the child. Judge Clarke ruled that her statements of admission made after that point were made under the threat of her child being removed and that she did not voluntarily waive her right to silence. Thus, Roe’s statements cannot be used against her in the prosecutor’s case. However, Judge Clarke did rule that the evidence found by police in the home may be used against her.
As seasoned drug crime defense attorneys, we understand that many drug crime prosecutions are built on false confessions, improper execution of search warrants, and serious constitutional violations. For those accused of drug crimes, it is best to retain skilled counsel right away. Your lawyer can review the facts of the case and determine whether a motion to suppress statements or evidence is advisable.
Interestingly, in this case, we believe that the police officers likely would have called Children’s Protective Services regardless of whether Roe confessed to any involvement in the drug activity. This is because police officers are mandatory reporters. They are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Having a young child around drugs and drug paraphernalia arguably would be something that most law enforcement officers would consider abuse or neglect. Thus, these officers would likely have been required to notify Children’s Protective Services about the conditions this child was living in. Yet they made Roe believe that if she confessed to criminal activity, they would not call CPS on her. This type of police deception is typical yet disappointing, and the attorneys at The Kronzek Firm commend Judge Clarke for recognizing that confessions made under the threat of removal of a child are not a voluntary waiver of a suspect’s right to remain silent.