No Seat Belt + Loose Pants + Loose Lips = Conviction for Gun Crime

An officer saw Bailey riding in the front seat of a car while not wearing a seatbelt. The officer stopped the car and Bailey bailed. The officer chased Bailey, noting that Bailey was holding his pants up by the waistband. Bailey jumped a fence into the Xiong family’s back yard, falling as he landed. When Bailey got up, the officer noticed that he was no longer holding onto his pants.

Bailey got away and hid in the neighborhood. A police service dog found Bailey. The officer who stopped him arrested him and placed Bailey into the back of his police car. The officer asked Bailey whether he knew of other crimes that might be happening in the area, suggesting that Bailey could help himself out by cooperating. No Miranda warning was given. The officer left the rear-facing camera on, recording video and audio.

As the officer was outside the car, Xiong approached the officer and told him that his grandchildren had found a gun in his back yard. The patrol car camera recorded Bailey as he swore repeatedly and said, “Damn, they found that gun.”

Bailey asserted that his statements captured on the recording should be suppressed, claiming that he was subjected to the functional equivalent of interrogation without the benefit of a Miranda warning. The court held that even if the questions constituted interrogation, the video recording didn’t reveal any of his answers. Moreover, the questions were primarily routine questions that might be asked during an arrest, and the questioning had ceased by the time that Bailey was placed in the back of the car.

Even if the officer hoped that the video recorder would capture some incriminating statement, such a technique did not amount to a deliberate elicitation of an incriminating response (the functional equivalent of interrogation): “Voluntary statements unprompted by interrogation are admissible with or without Miranda warnings.”

The moral of the story for Bailey is simple: Buckle up the seat belt, buckle up your pants belt and button your lip.

United States v. Bailey, 2016 WL 4151219 (8th Cir. 2016)

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over four decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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